UA Extension Program Reduces Forest Fire Risk for Homeowners

Thanks to a UA extension program, property owners in woodland areas can get expert assistance in thinning excess tree cover on their properties, thus reducing the risk of fire damage and increasing forest health. (Photo by Lee Ann Beery/Arizona Department of Forestry)
Thanks to a UA extension program, property owners in woodland areas can get expert assistance in thinning excess tree cover on their properties, thus reducing the risk of fire damage and increasing forest health. (Photo by Lee Ann Beery/Arizona Department of Forestry)

The idyllic life of a cabin in the woods appeals to just about anyone who lives in the desert Southwest during the summer. But the cooler temperatures and scenic views also can come with a price, as evidenced by a string of large and sometimes catastrophic fires sweeping through the region's forests.

In addition to hundreds of thousands of acres already burned or still burning, this year fires have destroyed homes and forced scores of people to evacuate.

A partnership begun more than a decade ago with the help of the University of Arizona's Cooperative Extension in Flagstaff, part of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, has been encouraging homeowners in fire-prone areas to thin out some of their beloved trees as a way to spare others, as well as their homes.
 
The Rural Communities Fuels Management Partnership offers homeowners help in reducing the risk of losing their homes.

Art Matthias, the program coordinator for the partnership and a former ranger with the Kaibab and Coconino National Forests, said homeowners can have their properties assessed for risk, including a recommend treatment plan, and arrange for workers to carry it out. A cost-sharing arrangement, Matthias said, will typically split the expense by half.

"We first look at the tree density and health of the forested property. Typically, trees are much denser there than occur naturally," he said. A pre-settlement area that had 30 to 70 trees per acre might have several hundred trees per acre today," Matthias said.

"We don't often bring the forest back to its original condition, but we try hard to separate the crown space so as not to leave a continuous canopy of trees, and thereby reduce the fire risk."

Read the rest of this July 2 UANews article at the link below.

Date released: 
Jul 5 2012
Contact: 
Art Matthias