Arizona Elk Society Collaborates with Arizona Game & Fish to Provide Funding to Save Communities in the Wallow Fire Path

Your Arizona Game and Fish Commissioner’s Special Big Game Tags at Work

Wallow-firePhoenix, AZ October 17, 2011 – The Arizona Elk Society toured many of the areas where forest thinning needed to be done and approved funds through the Arizona Game & Fish’s Habitat Partnership Committee program.  In turn, the Forest Service used the money to provide fuel treatments to successfully reduce fire behavior that allowed firefighters to protect thousands of structures and, in many places, halt the spread of the fire.

According to a recent report by the USDA Forest Service, the fuel treatments on the landscape and Firewise principles applied around homes in Alpine, Springerville and Eagar, Arizona area allowed firefighters to do their job, which resulted in saving homes from the Wallow Fire that raged through 400,000 acres in just sixteen days.

Apache-Sitegreaves

Photo from the USDA Forest Service report
"How Fuel Treatments Saved Homes from the 2011 Wallow Fire,"

How Fuel Treatments Saved Homes from the Wallow Fire

As the forest fire enters the ½ mile-wide Apache/Sitgreaves Forest Service Fuel Treatment units located above the communities, the fire drops down from up in the tree crowns to the surface level. This causes the fire’s rate-of-spread to dramatically slow. Thanks to the fuel treatments, the flame lengths are now low enough to allow firefighters to safely attack the fire and protect homes and property.

“When the fire came over the ridge toward Alpine it sounded like a freight train.  The smoke column was bent over making it difficult to see.  Without the fuel treatment effects of reducing flame lengths and defensible space around most houses, we would have had to pull back our firefighters.  Many of the houses would have caught fire and burned to the ground.”

Jim Aylor, Fire Management Officer
Alpine Fire District

Fuel treatments had begun way back in 2004 and provided strategic locations for firefighters to set up and fight the fire.   According to one fire management officer, "Without the fuel treatments, I never would have had a firefighter there." The potential for injury or death would have been too great had the area not been treated with the fuel treatments.

Background

How the Wallow Fire Started

Decades of excluding fire in the Western states have resulted in a dense buildup of forest-floor fuels in many dry forests, which was then ignited by an unattended campfire at about 1:30 p.m. on May 29, 2011.  When all was said and done, the Wallow Fire burned nearly 540,000 acres in total from late May until its containment on July 21. During the 2-month burn, the Wallow grew to more than three times the size of the 2009 Station Fire (160,000 acres), and more than twice the size of the 2003 Cedar Fire (273,000 acres), the largest California wildfire.

Background of the Habitat Partnership Committee Program

Excerpt from the AZGFD Website

Established by the Arizona Game and Fish Commission in 1992, the Arizona Elk Habitat Partnership Committee and affiliated Local Habitat Partnership Committees were created to address and reduce elk and livestock conflicts and to promote partnerships through cooperative projects.

In January 1996, the program concept expanded beyond elk and livestock conflicts and was renamed the Arizona Habitat Partnership Committee to better reflect an ecosystem approach to wildlife habitat management and related projects.

Funds are raised by the Wildlife Conservation Organization from the sale of Arizona Game and Fish Commissioner’s Special Big Game Tags.  Funds are allocated through the HPC Program by collaboration between the Department and the wildlife conservation organizations that market and sell the tags. Once project proposals are submitted, the Department coordinates with these wildlife conservation organizations and funding is allocated to the projects that provide the most benefit to big game species in Arizona.

About Arizona Elk Society: Established in 2001, the Arizona Elk Society (AES) is an Arizona non-profit organization to benefit elk and other wildlife in Arizona through habitat conservation and restoration. The organization works with government agencies and other organizations to provide their services.  It prides itself in providing "hands on" support that conserves and enhances wildlife habitat in Arizona. It further promotes our hunting heritage for present and future generations through special youth education programs regarding conservation, hunting and outdoor activities.