KGUN 9NewsCommunity Inspired JournalismCatalina Foothills News


Foothills neighbors hoping to prevent fires by cleaning up invasive plants

Foothills neighbors removing fountain grass to prevent fires
Posted at 10:36 PM, Apr 15, 2024

CATALINA FOOTHILLS, Ariz. (KGUN) — The plant roots ripping out from underneath the ground made the sound of plants crunch. It made Fran Brazzell happy that she had lifted up another bit of fountain grass.

She lives in the Foothills, and for the past five years has been working to remove fountain grass from three banks and around houses in her neighborhood.

“Oh this last little bit doesn’t want to come out,” she commented as she uprooted some more fountain grass.

For Brazzell, it’s tough work, but work that is necessary and one of her passions.

“If we had another major fire and it traveled closer to our homes here, we are at great risk,” she said.

She recalled the Big Horn Fire in the Catalina Mountains back in 2020. It’s those types of fires she’s hoping to prevent from spreading by removing fountain grass from her neighborhood.

Roxy Roth is one of her neighbors who helps her remove the invasive plants. She, along with Brazzell, removed a few of the plants on Monday.

“It’s highly flammable so if there is a storm or fire, it’s going to catch fire and be a much bigger hazard,” Roth explained.

Brazzell taught Roth about some of the invasive plants in their neighborhood after taking a master gardening class at the University of Arizona’s extension program.

Getting up close to a cactus and examining a fountain grass right underneath it, Brazzell said, “They also threaten the natural plants that would normally survive a fire.”

Rural Metro Fire said in 2023 they responded to about 50 less brush fires than 2022. As of late last month, they said they have responded to at least 26 this year.

Northwest Fire District also said they responded to less fires in 2023 compared to 2022 because of greenery.

To prevent fires, Brazzell said people can use other plants like cotton top and other grasses there are not invasive.

The U.S.A. National Phenology Network said starting during monsoon, they’re going to be monitoring buffelgrass in our area, which is another invasive species.

However, in their Foothills neighborhood, people like Roth and Brazzell are taking the initiative to stop fires from reaching other people’s homes.

“Looking out for each other and working together is a really crucial part of living here in Tucson,” Roth said.

Andrew Christiansen is a reporter for KGUN 9. Before joining the team, Andrew reported in Corpus Christi, Texas for KRIS6 News, Action 10 News and guest reported in Spanish for Telemundo Corpus Christi. Share your story ideas with Andrew by emailing or by connecting on Facebook, or Twitter.