Dry, hot summer keeps Scottsdale firefighters busy battling brush fires

Sep 29, 2020, 4:35 AM | Updated: 12:48 pm
(Scottsdale Fire Department Photo)...
(Scottsdale Fire Department Photo)
(Scottsdale Fire Department Photo)

PHOENIX — The dry, hot summer has kept the Scottsdale Fire Department busier than normal this fire season.

Firefighters have already responded to at least 80 brush fires in or near Scottsdale this year, which is higher than past years. During this time last year, Scottsdale firefighters responded to 73 brush fires and to 30 brush fires three years ago.

“We probably will surpass last year’s total just for the fact that our monsoon season didn’t really come like it normally does this year,” Scottsdale Fire Deputy Chief Kerry Swick told KTAR News 92.3 FM.

“It was either late or non-existent, so there are still dry conditions out there. That’s why the brush fire season itself has been extended.”

Swick said the good news is brush fires in Scottsdale this year haven’t been very large. He attributed part of that to the department’s fire prevention efforts, which include asking homeowners to get rid of overgrown brush that can create a fire danger.

Last year’s fire season also helped Scottsdale firefighters prepare for this year. Reports of how brush fires were started showed sparks from chains, cutting, welding and grinding metals were to blame.

Swick said these types of activities are common in residential construction sites.

As a result, three fire marshals started doing construction site fire assessments in May. They meet with the general contractor or the job supervisor and walk the site while using a wildfire safety checklist.

“We go over a few items, like are there vehicles parked all over the job site to where we couldn’t get a fire truck in there if we did have a fire?” Swick said. “If you have folks cutting metal, are you wetting down the grass or are you moving your work area to where it’s not a grassy area?”

The checklist also asks that construction sites keep clear of excessive combustible and flammable materials and restrict smoking while on the construction site, especially in areas where there’s a lot of brush.

Swick added the inspections are quick and only take a few minutes. So far, 241 inspections have been done and only five have failed.

The information is entered into a geo mapping system that also tracks when and where brunch fires start. This allows the Scottsdale Fire Department to track fires that may be related to a construction site.

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Dry, hot summer keeps Scottsdale firefighters busy battling brush fires