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Lakeside, Arizona

Firefighters from Lakeside, Arizona are preparing for this year’s wildfire season through the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) “Ready, Set, Go!” Program. They are implementing this three-step process in their community by going door-to-door supplying information to homeowners about what they could be doing in conjunction with the efforts of the Fire Department to help protect their homes from wildfires.

Lakeside, AZ success storyArizona has suffered drastic effects from the two largest wildfires to hit the arid state in the last 10 years. In June of 2002 the Rodeo-Chediski Fire whipped through the state with 25 mph winds that drove the wildfire to burn more than 468,000 acres of land. The blaze was intentionally sparked in two different locations that would later merge into one enormous wall of fire that would destroy over 460 houses and be named the second largest wildfire in Arizona’s history.

Last June, Arizona witnessed the largest wildfire the state has ever seen. The Wallow Fire, which was started by an abandoned camp fire, burned for six straight weeks. It was only after the fire was extinguished that Arizona fire officials realized the extent of the damage it had created. The ferocious blaze had burned over 538,000 acres and destroyed 32 residential houses, 4 businesses, and more than 30 barns, sheds, and other structures.

One of the hardest lessons to learn during a wildfire is that firefighters cannot be everywhere and save every home. To this end, one Arizona community took responsibility for making their homes as fire-resistant as possible. Working with their local fire department, the neighborhood of Lakeside developed a strategy to combat the imminent threat that this year’s wildfire season presents. 

This strategy includes the implementation of the International Association of Fire Chief’s (IAFC) “Ready, Set, Go!” (RSG) Program. Ready, Set, Go! is a three-step process that brings firefighters and homeowners together, and teaches residents to be ready and well prepared in the event of a wildfire, to get completely set for their departure, and to follow the proper evacuation plan that has been established for their community. It works in collaboration with NFPA’s Firewise Communities Program and many other existing wildfire public education efforts.
“With two of the largest wildfires in Arizona history hitting our region in the last 10 years, fire districts are working together to provide valuable information to homeowners on how to effectively prepare for, and defend against, wildfires” said Lakeside Fire Chief Bryan Savage.

Beginning in March, Lakeside firefighters will be going door-to-door to every home in the small town to provide residents with information on the RSG program and what they could be doing to aid the efforts of the fire department. While doing this, they will perform a property analysis at each home to look for such things as firefighting equipment, defensible space around the home, and flammable or hazardous materials that are stored close to the home structure. The firefighters will then determine if the residents are “Ready” by assigning them either a red or green tag. The green tag means that the house was found to be visibly “Ready” in the event of a wildfire; red tags mean the house will need to apply some additional Firewise principles to be better prepared.

It is efforts like these that make the difference in protecting your home from the threat of wildfires. Savage spoke of the program saying that, “The [Ready, Set, Go!] process significantly increases community safety by reducing the risk of a devastating fire and it also allows firefighters to focus their efforts on extinguishing fire and rescuing our loves ones rather than managing evacuation efforts.”