Preparedness is key for Cochise County firefighters ahead of wildfire season

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Posted at 9:00 AM, Jun 06, 2023

COCHISE COUNTY, Ariz. — Cochise County has survived some of the state's largest wildfires.

The one most people remembers is the human-caused Monument Fire in 2011. The fire burned 30,000 acres through Miller Peak wilderness in the Huachuca Mountains into Sierra Vista.

“Smoking’s bad for a lot of reasons and one of them is you can throw your lit cigarette out and start the grass on fire," said Fry Fire District Captain Jon Sayler. "It could be a condition such you know that one cigarette can turn into a large devastating fire.”

Wildfire season is typically begins right before monsoon season in southern Arizona, but Cochise County firefighters are prepared to combat these fires year round.

“We do trainings with the crews throughout the year because wild fire season is we feel is year round," said Wildfire Coordinator for Sierra Vista Fire and Medical Services Jason Picket. "We do have a wild land season but that season pretty much runs 12 months out of the year. We can get a fire at any time.”

The training the crews go through includes online and classroom learning, a three mile walk with 45 pounds of gear on and executing different scenarios. This year the local districts utilized a digital projector from Santa Cruz County that let them use images of different locations in the county to see how a fire may move in local landscapes. Saylor said the advantage of using the digital format, rather than their physical sandbox-like surface, is that they can use local typography and climate to provide a more accurate scenario and training.

Fry Fire District Captain Adam Short said the trainings help get him and his team back into the mindset of wildlands season.

“Training here definitely gets us back into that mindset of ‘okay it’s wild land season," Short said. "We’re not going to be home, we’re not going to be seeing our families as much. We’re going to be out.”

Fry Fire crews have been sent all over the state and country to help fight wildfires. Short and Sayler said they have been to California multiple time and other locations to provide extra support to the large fires there.

Fire season falls at different times throughout the country which allows local firefighters to travel and help in other areas. Picket, Short and Sayler agree the hands on experience from fighting fires is the best type of training they can receive.

“The time how long can we stay committed to a structure before we have to go; how fast do we need to walk; how fast do we need to get this job done before the fire reaches us,” Short said.

The goal for the firefighters is to save as many people, animals and buildings as possible. Short said that my require the help of the people who live near the fire.

Cochise County residents are encouraged to download the alert app so they can get notifications of any evacuations and they should also have go bags ready for everyone in their house, including their pets.

Alexis Ramanjulu is a reporter in Cochise County for KGUN 9. She began her journalism career reporting for the Herald/Review in Sierra Vista, which she also calls home. Share your story ideas with Alexis by emailing or by connecting on Facebook.

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