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Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Have Their Backs. Live Firewise

Arizona is what’s known in the emergency management business as a “wildfire state,” which is another way of saying our state has a history of large, destructive wildfires. The reasons for that unfortunate designation are long-term drought and hot, dry and windy summers—the perfect conditions for wildfires.

Last year, over 1,500 wildfires occurred in Arizona. That total is below our 10 year (2005 - 2014) average of 2,233, according to the National Interagency Coordination Center, but one or two slow seasons doesn't mean this summer won’t be busy.

In 2006, there were 1,601 reported wildfires in Arizona, including  the largest in state history. The Wallow Fire burnt over 538,000 acres, forced the evacuation of thousands, and damaged or destroyed 78 total structures in Apache, Greenlee, Graham and Navajo counties.

While there is no way of knowing where or when the next big wildfire will spark, there are ways to protect lives and property in the Whole Community. Wildfire mitigation is the focus of the Arizona Department of Emergency and Military Affairs’ first ever public service announcement (PSA) campaign.

The Have Their Backs PSAs focus on the home and/or business owners’ responsibility to the Whole Community. The radio and television spots and billboards pay tribute to wildland firefighters who “go to extraordinary lengths to save lives and property,” and asks Arizonans to “have their backs” by living Firewise®.

A person who "lives Firewise" takes steps to reduce the impact of wildfire on lives, property and the local economy. With the 2015 wildfire season a few weeks away, Arizonans who own homes and businesses in the wildland-urban interface are asked to make do-it-yourself improvements on their property:

·         Clean roofs and gutters of dead leaves and debris.
·         Trim trees that overhang your house.
·         Replace or repair loose or missing roof shingles.
·         Enclose under-eave and soffit vents or screens with metal mesh.
·         Cover exterior attic vents with metal wire mesh.
·         Repair or replace broken windows and damaged or loose window screens.
·         Screen or box in areas below raised patios and decks.
·         Move flammable materials such as mulch or firewood piles away from exterior walls.
·         Remove anything stored underneath decks or porches such as lawn furniture.

The Have Their Backs campaign will continue through June and was produced in association with the U.S. Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the Arizona State Forestry Division, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, freelance photographer Kari Greer and videographer Renette Saba.

DEMA is working with the Arizona Broadcasters’ Association to air its television and radio spots statewide. Billboards were placed in fire-prone areas, including Globe, Heber-Overgaard, Prescott and Sierra Vista.

The Firewise Communities Program®,, is a national fire prevention and mitigation campaign that “teaches people how to adapt to living with wildfire and encourage neighbors to work together and take action now to prevent losses.” DEMA received permission from the National Fire Protection Association to use the Firewise trademark.

For more information on the PSA campaign and what you can do to Have Their Backs, visit the Arizona Emergency Information Network website at

Share your opinion of the campaign with us at

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