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What the town of Bisbee learned from a fire two years ago

Many people feared the entire town would burn
Posted at 10:13 PM, Jun 10, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-11 01:29:17-04

A fire in Bisbee two years ago left a lingering impression on the minds of not only the fire department, but the community as well.

In Southern Arizona, we know there is no fire season -- the threat is all year long. And in the small town of Bisbee, they're always prepared for a fire.

Bisbee Fire Chief George Castillo has seen a lot of fires in his 28 years with the department. But there's one that really sticks out in his memory.

"Old Bisbee, it's a fire hazard up there," Chief Castillo said.

On May 15, 2017 a fire started in an abandoned home in Old Bisbee. As the flames grew, so did the concern.

"Fire actually goes uphill a lot quicker," Castillo said. "And the structures up in Old Bisbee are older, they're kind of close together. So they're possibly going from one structure to another structure. And that's why people were concerned about possibly the whole town burning that day."

There is a lot of dry brush in the area, which is fire fuel. It's part of what caused a lot of panic when the fire broke out. A lot of the damage is still visible off Star Avenue.

Castillo says the department learned a lot from that fire.

"We started looking at the dangers that we had going through that fire," he said. "What we needed to change -- and a lot of things we started up. We added more training, more equipment."

That fire also inspired people to form Old Bisbee Firewise, a community of volunteers who go out and clean up dry brush and overgrown trees in fire-prone areas. Castillo said around 100 people were at last month's meeting.

Old Bisbee Firewise

With a high wildfire danger looming over Southern Arizona for the next couple of months, the town of Bisbee is doing what they can to keep their historic town from burning.