It took more than a year, hundreds of hours and individual responsibility for Kohl's Ranch homeowners to earn USA Firewise Communities/USA recognition.
The homeowners received the prestigious citation July 8 at a summer meeting held off Old Trespass near Kohl's Ranch.
Representatives of the State Land Department, including local Forester Lee Ann Berry and Phoenix District Forester Scott Hunt were on hand to honor Kohl's Firewise Chairperson Margaret Midlick and others who participated in the program.
Berry lauded the homeowners saying, they are the first community in Gila County to receive Firewise Communities/USA recognition, ninth in the state and 157th in the nation.
To earn the Firewise Communities designation, Kohl's Ranch homeowners first undertook a series of landscape improvements designed to minimize wildfire risks to people, property and natural resources.
The movement began in July 2005, three years after the Rodeo-Chedeski fire destroyed over 500,000 acres of forest just east of Kohl's Ranch.
Berry said, it was a handful of homeowners who began the Firewise movement by distributing brochures, hosting guest speakers at homeowner association meetings and beginning fire education programs.
Later, a Kohl's Ranch Firewise Committee was formed and its members began to encourage homeowners to agree to property risk assessments.
On hand to help with the assessments were Arizona State Land Department and University of Arizona specialists. A Christopher-Kohl's Ranch volunteer also assisted.
After six months, 90 of the 121 homes located in Kohl's Ranch had received wildfire risk assessment.
With assessments in hand, homeowners began fuel reduction projects, including thinning trees and brush, choosing fire-resistant plants and selecting ignition-resistant building materials.
Berry said some homeowners were originally reluctant to remove some trees, but were amazed at how their safety and views had improved following the clean up.
Berry also said that Firewise landscaping techniques can actually improve the aesthetic quality of a home by clearing out dry and dead vegetation and creating space between plants and trees.
During the fuel reduction projects, homeowners also formed fire management teams to develop emergency plans.
"Achieving Firewise recognition is not a quick and easy process; the (Firewise) board has worked very hard for the last year," Berry said. "The community of Kohl's Ranch has done an outstanding job and chairperson Midlick has been an inspiration and a positive force."
Midlick said the accomplishments of Kohl's Ranch has generated interests in other communities to become Firewise.
The Kohl's Ranch area is served by the local fire department, a volunteer staff district that provides both fire protection and emergency medical services.
The department relies on water tanker firetrucks and a gravity-fed hydrant system installed in portions of the development.
For more information about Firewise, log on to: firewise.org/usa/kohls_ranch.htm