As the 19th anniversary of the 1990 Dude Fire looms less than two months away, the community of Bonita Creek worked toward and achieved national Firewise Communities USA recognition.
Lee Ann Beery, from the Arizona State Forestry Division, along with Dan Eckstine and Jeremy Plain, from the Payson Ranger District of the U.S. Forest Service, were on hand to present the award to the Bonita Creek Firewise Board Saturday, April 25.
“Six firefighters lost their lives fighting that fire,” states Beery, “and the community lost all but five structures.”
Bonita Creek joins a small, but growing number of Rim Country communities to receive national Firewise recognition by becoming the ninth community in Gila County and the 28th community in Arizona to receive the distinction.
“It was about a year ago when one of the community members approached me and said they were concerned the community had potential to burn from a wildland fire again,” said Beery. “It is not unusual for a community to approach me with concerns about wildland fire. The word that really got my attention was ‘again.’ Their community has a lot of tall brush, combined with a unique grass component and, under the right conditions, it could create a very hot and fastmoving fire.”
Achieving Firewise recognition status is not a quick or easy process, and communities must apply for renewal each year. In their first year with the program, Bonita Creek was able to create their Firewise Plan, establish additional emergency water sources for firefighting, hold work days to thin vegetation in and around the community and, in March, sent two members of their Firewise board to hazard assessment training in Prescott.
The folks at Bonita Creek realize there is still a lot of hard work ahead. This year, they have applied for grant funds to help with fuel reduction projects, and have set a goal to get private property owners to create survivable space around their homes.
“This community truly understands the loss that can happen from wildland fire. They have made a commitment to protect themselves, and I am extremely proud to work with them,” said Beery.
If you want to learn how to protect your home and property from wildland fire, or if you are a community interested in earning recognition, visit www.firewise.org for more information.