Firefighters nationwide come to Flagstaff for prescribed burn training ahead of wildfire season

Wildfire season is over, but massive preparations are already underway for next season.

Firefighters used drip torches to intentionally burn the ground cover in southwest Flagstaff. After a week of training agencies across the country, the Flagstaff Prescribed Fire Training Exchange burnt more than 70 acres in order to help fight against future wildfires.

This time, they're on the Observatory Mesa Trail.

"Being on the west side and some of the southwest side of Flagstaff, that’s the way the winds often come during fire season," said Neil Chapman with the Flagstaff Fire Department. "So if the winds are coming from the southwest and moving to the northeast, having these protected areas that have reduced wildfire risk … are of huge importance to us."

Chapman says the area was thinned out a few years ago, and this is the next step in wildfire prevention.

"We know by keeping fire in this landscape every two to 10 years or so we’ll be able to maintain this natural condition," Chapman said.

Flagstaff faced a difficult wildfire season in 2021, with one of the notable ones being the 78,000-acre Rafael Fire.

Crews performed a similar prescribed burn northeast of the fire at the time in order to get rid of potential fuel by the time the wildfire spread to that area.

"We had values at risk that we had to protect, and we had lots of treatments between those areas," Chapman said.

Colorado Firefighters said they will take a lot of what they learn from Flagstaff back to their communities.

"What Flagstaff is doing with fire-wise, fire adaptive communities -- how aggressive and progressive this agency has been," said Brian Faith, a firefighter for the Grand Lake Fire Department.

Not only will these drip torches help fight future fires, but officials say it’s actually better for the ponderosa forest as it recycles nutrients in the soil.

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