County News

The massive wildfires currently in Canada or the Slide Fire that started two years ago this month in Oak Creek Canyon are constant reminders as to how devastating they can be to a community.

This spring and summer, city of Sedona Volunteer Park Rangers will warn visitors in Uptown about the critical topic of wildland fire danger. On days when the National Weather Service issues a Red Flag Warning for Sedona and the surrounding forest, the Volunteer Park Rangers will wear “Red Flag Warning Today” buttons to educate the public of the potential for a fire and the steps needed to prevent one.

“Having been a wildlands firefighter for the National Park Service, I knew how serious a Red Flag Warning was,” said Bob Huggins, city of Sedona Volunteer Park Rangers manager and its founder. “After starting the Sedona Volunteer Park Ranger program I discovered that most visitors didn’t understand the concept or even the term. They didn’t understand that if a fire started, it would be difficult if not impossible to immediately contain.”

He said the majority of the public isn’t aware of precautions they need to take to keep from starting a fire on public lands. And most importantly, they don’t understand how fast the fire could spread, endangering the resource, firefighters, campers, homeowners and wildlife.  

“We initially designed a warning button that was only partially effective because of the design and text,” Huggins said. “This new button is very clear and simple.”

The staff and volunteers at the Chamber of Commerce Visitor Center in Uptown have also joined the effort. Between the Visitor Center and the rangers walking in Uptown every day, it is hoped that they will reach as many visitors as possible.

“If this program prevents only one fire, it will be a success,” Huggins said.

The purpose of the program is to engage the public in a conversation about the importance of a Red Flag Warning day and what they can do to protect the city and surrounding public lands.  

“Visitors may have heard the term and have a vague understanding of its importance, but most visitors have never been in an area that is under a Red Flag Warning,” he said. “We also have a lot of foreign visitors who have no concept of what a Red Flag Warning means. We try to meet tour operators so that they know the significance of the term and can warn their clients about safe disposal of smoking materials.”

A Red Flag Warning is issued when there is a combination of low humidity, winds averaging 15 mph or more, temperatures greater than 75 degrees and dry conditions — all of which could lead to catastrophic wildfire activity.

“This is just one more amazing service that our Volunteer Park Rangers provide,” Sedona Parks and Recreation Manager Rachel Murdoch said. “Thanks to their educational outreach as part of them being community stewards, more visitors will know the importance of fire safety in the Southwest.”

As to what he hopes the outcome of the program will be, Huggins added, “We hope that the program reminds everyone to really think about fire safety and the precautions that they can take to prevent another Slide Rock fire. ”


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