The Board of Directors prioritized Fire Risk Mitigation in 2020. In January 2020, the Board approved the expenditure of $51,000 to have fire risk mitigation work performed in the common areas of seven enclaves. The State of Arizona Department of Forestry and Fire Management (DFFM) was scheduled to begin the work in March.
Unfortunately, the project was delayed due to COVID-19. To honor its commitment and perform fire risk mitigation in 2020, the Association contracted with its landscape contractor for the project in 2020. Since the landscape contractor's cost is roughly three times higher than the DFFM crews', the scope of work had to be modified (reduced). At this time, we do not know if or when the DFFM crews will be able to perform the fire risk mitigation work in Las Sendas. The Landscape Committee will work with its landscape contractor to develop a revised phased plan for work in the community. In preparation for a revision to this plan, the Board approved additional funds for fire risk mitigation in 2021.
Below is the list of enclaves scheduled for 2020.
2. Whispering Ridge
3. Echo Canyon
4. Tapestry Mountain
5. Granite Ridge
6. Ironwood Pass
7. Desert Vistas
Several years ago, the City of Mesa Fire Marshall contacted the Association with a recommendation to address some of the overgrown vegetation in the natural common areas that border homes within the community. The Fire Marshall also provided recommendations for Mesa residents. In response to the letter, the Board of Directors approved roughly $233K of fire fuel mitigation efforts in 24 enclaves between 2016 and 2018. It was the first time any significant removal of vegetation in these common areas was performed since the community was developed roughly 20 years ago.
In 2019, the newly appointed Landscape Committee consulted with the Captain of the Mesa Fire Department and the Arizona Department of Forestry and Fire Management (DFFM) to better understand the recommended scope of work. During these conversations, the Committee learned that the DFFM has a partnership with the Arizona Department of Corrections and trained Fire Crews are available to perform fuel reduction work. In addition to completing this work in Arizona forests, these crews regularly perform work in homeowners associations around the valley similar to Las Sendas.
The scope of work is specific to reducing the amount of fuel (vegetation) to reduce the risk of fire spreading through common areas. An additional benefit will be the reduction of debris that may impede the natural flow of water in the washes.
Tentatively, the Board plans to continue this project to complete the first phase of fire mitigation in 2021. Thereafter, the work may be done every few years, budget permitting.
It should be noted that while the Association is taking some preventative action, the proposed work will not guarantee fires will not start or spread within the community. The Association is not liable if a fire starts, spreads or causes damage to any private property. Homeowners are responsible for taking necessary action to protect their private property.
What is the advantage of using the DFFM to perform the work?
The cost to have the DFFM perform the work is roughly one third the cost charged by landscape contractors; thus, the Association can save tens of thousands of dollars. Also, because the DFFM crews perform fuel reduction throughout the state year-round, they are knowledgeable about how much vegetation needs to be removed to reduce the potential impact of a fire event without clearing all of our valuable deserts.
What will we see when they're finished?
As a general rule, the scope includes the following, This isn't a science. It's more of an art by trained professionals (this does not apply to 2020):
Clearing away vegetation within five feet of walls
Trimming trees so that branches do not hang lower than about six feet from the ground
Removing any "dead and down" material, meaning large broken branches, dead trees and shrubs, fallen trees or branches.
Breaking up large, dense areas of shrubs by removing some shrubs.
Trimming any very large shrubs
They will do their best to trim plants attractively, but they are not landscapers and it probably will not look manicured when they are done. Vegetation will be chipped and the chippings will be dispersed onto the ground. Dispersing the material on the ground is recommended for three reasons: it will save the Association money by reducing dump fees, it will help prevent erosion during heavy rains and it will help hold in moisture for plants.
What can we do to protect our property?
- Routinely remove plant debris from your roof and gutters.
- Move combustible material like wood and patio furniture 30 feet from your home.
- Remove/trim tree branches that touch the ground or your home.
- Promptly remove dead and dry plant material from trees and shrubs within 30 feet of your home.
- Trim dense areas of shrubs and trees within 30 feet of your home to create "breaks" in vegetation. Custom lot homeowners, be sure to contact the Association or Mesa Code Compliance before removing vegetation outside your building envelope.
- Visit dffm.az.gov or search your online for Firewise USA (TM) for more info.
- Be Prepared – To learn how to receive emergency notifications from Maricopa County and how to prepare in the event of an evacuation or other emergency visit: https://ein.az.gov/ready-set-go
Tell me more about the Department of Corrections Crews
The crews are made up of about 18 minimum custody, low-risk, non-violent inmates currently serving sentences in Arizona, plus uniformed Department of Corrections and State Forestry personnel who also work as part of the crew. The crew members need to complete rigorous interviews to be a part of the program and maintain very strict mental and physical health requirements.
These men and women aren't simply performing landscape demolition. They are firefighters with advanced training qualifications that equal or exceed those of non-inmate firefighters like Sawyer and Crew Boss and Firefighter Type 1. In addition to performing fuel mitigation efforts in communities like Las Sendas, they also perform suppression efforts during wildfire season, disaster clean-up, and search and rescue assignments.
The partnership between the Arizona Department of Forestry and Fire Management and the Arizona Department of Corrections helps reduce recidivism rates state-wide by providing opportunities for men and women to learn skills and gain experience that will help them transition back into society after release. The experience goes beyond vocational, as there are meaningful mental, emotional and relational advantages for those participating in the program.