Fire Wise

firewise recognition

Read The Complete Portal Firewise Plan for 2018

On June 9th, 2018, the Portal Firewise Committee submitted their application for recognition as a Firewise Community.

This is a huge step and took considerable work by community members and the committee to reduce fuels and develop a plan for future fire survivability in Portal. The scope of this effort was focused on the Cave Creek Canyon and expanded to include the private property extending to the neighborhood surrounding H Bar M, Sky Village and the private land holdings surrounded by forest land up to and including the SWRS.

For those outside the initial Firewise Community boundaries, those extending to Stateline, Sulfur & Horseshoe Canyon areas, as well as Whitetail Canyon & Paradise, this does not preclude you from joining at a later point. For this to happen, these other ‘neighborhoods’ will have to organize themselves, so as to join with 70% of residents already committed.

With recognition as a Firewise Community we will be eligible to apply for 90/10 grants during the next opening for submissions, through Portal Rescue, that will help defray the costs of fuel reduction work throughout the community.

Along with our efforts, a mapping of the area was done by Lee Dyal, that provides our fire fighters with good references for accessibility to properties during an emergency.

Watch for announcements for continued education opportunities, meetings and volunteer work events. Neighboring areas are encouraged to band together to create their own committee to work toward Firewise practice.

Anyone wishing to have a fire assessment of their property is welcome to call Debb Johnson 520-558-3266 or Lee Dyal 520-558-0010 to schedule a visit.

Practicing Firewise principles is an ongoing effort to keep our community safe.Thanks to the Firewise Committee for their dedication to completing this task. To read the complete Firewise plan, click the red link above.


Summary Of Firewise Meeting - March 28, 2018

Our meeting for Firewise Education on Wednesday March 28th was well attended (36) and we had a good discussion with suggestions and recommendations for

surviving a wildfire in the Chiricahuas. We had several new requests for fire assessments from people who attended the meeting.

A video ( ) was shown that discussed the science of wildfire behavior which showed how firebrands (burning embers) are to blame

for home ignitions even if the fire is miles away. After the first video we had a good discussion about having assessments done of our properties and the measures we can take to safeguard our homes and properties, as well as actions to take when a wildfire threatens.

Suggestions for emergency preparedness:

1. Have a corded land line telephone that will work when the power is off, (because the power will go off!) so you can alert your neighbors, by phone or in person during emergencies.

2. Post your street address number in plain view from the road on a post or fence (Not on the house).

3. Have important papers (titles, insurance, legal documents, etc. ) handy so you don’t have to hunt for them if an evacuation order comes down in a hurry.

4. Have at least two evacuation routes set up, so you know which way to go to get out in an evacuation. If you have only one way out, evacuate before the

mandatory evacuation order comes out! If you wait, the traffic congestion may trap you, and smoke may blind you. Property is NOT worth risking your life!

A second video showed an example of measures that can be taken to make your home defensible in a wildfire, but removing ladder fuels near your house and using

fire resistant and non-combustible materials for your building and landscaping.

We discussed the need for volunteers for Portal Rescue and passed around a sheet for those who would be willing to take the firefighting training course if we can get

the trainer to come to Portal and had a good number sign up. Portal Rescue is in need of volunteers for all phases of their organization, Firefighters, EMTs and Radio Operators. If you are able to help, please notify Dave Newton 520-558-1155.

The firewise assessors will be busy the next few weeks assessing properties and advising home owners what they can do to improve their survivability from a wildfire. PLEASE call and schedule an assessment if you haven’t already done so. Please encourage all your neighbors, especially in the canyon to have their property assessed by calling either Debb Johnson 520-558-3266 or Lee Dyal 520- 558-0010.

After assessments are completed our Firewise committee will be writing up a Community Assessment and a Firewise Plan and my hope is that we can apply for Firewise recognition by the end of May.

Please keep May 5th open for our volunteer fuel reduction day of work. And May 26th we’ll have educational material at the Garden Party at the VIC (Ranger Station) in Cave Creek Canyon.

Thank you to all who attended and watch for more educational events.

Debb Johnson



Hello neighbors and friends:

The Portal Firewise Committee is working to attain recognition as a firewise community and we need participation from all of you. We are beginning our effort in the canyon from the forest service boundary to Foothills road (the most vulnerable area) and will then spread our efforts to the entire Portal Rescue District.​ Please join us!

Together with successive drought years, record high temperatures, and the Horseshoe I and II fires, a recent fire in ‘downtown’ Portal solidified the view that tragic fires like those afflicting California could happen right here. A sudden and lucky downturn in the winds was all that saved our homes and adjacent wildlands from disaster during the June, 2017 fire, but there’s no guarantee that we’ll be as fortunate next time. On this very warm and dry year, windy and dry spring weather lies just around the corner. It’s well past time to act to insure the safety and survival of our community in the face of future fires that will surely come in just a matter of time.

State and federal land agencies have long prioritized Portal as a community that would benefit from working toward Firewise status, and several local citizens have formed a committee to spearhead this effort. To qualify as a Firewise community, we need to show that homeowners are working toward compliance with a set of guidelines developed by fire researchers to promote survival of homes in the Wildland-Urban-Interface, or WUI (pronounced ‘woo-ee’). A Sew What? forum last November brought in Mayra Moreno (Southeast District Coordinator for the AZ Department of Forestry and Fire Management) to stimulate interest and participation in Firewise, and Mayra returned with Lee Ann Beery (Northern District Coordinator, AZ-DFFM) to offer a two-day class in home and property assessment. A number of certified local Firewise assessors are now available to visit and make recommendations for safeguarding houses and properties. We hope that assessments will increase awareness of actions - many of them minor – with the potential to increase your security.

A principal lesson from the Firewise class was that the majority of homes lost to wildfire succumb to showers of embers entering nooks and crannies, rather than to advancing walls of flames (though the latter can happen). Embers, also called firebrands, can penetrate attic vents, lodge in stacks of firewood, and even ignite brooms and door mats left on porches. Some vulnerabilities must be addressed in advance (e.g., by protecting attic vents with metal screen, cleaning gutters, and keeping woodpiles at a distance), while others are tackled at a ‘ready, set, go’ moment as fire approaches (e.g, moving brooms, porch furniture and other flammables away from the house). Firewise recommendations for reducing ladder fuels and vegetation immediately next to the home need not mean sacrificing much loved trees and shrubs composing the environments in which we have chosen to live.

Fires consuming unprotected properties produce embers that colonize whole neighborhoods, and the community is only as strong as its weakest link. The

Firewise Committee therefore invites your participation in Portal’s Firewise program, and we can provide several enticements.

  • - First, assessments are free, so please take advantage of one.
  • - The Committee is also organizing several alternative ways of disposing of downed vegetation and ladder fuels.
  • - If we work toward Firewise status, the US Forest Service, BLM, and AZ State Lands will pitch in and do their part on government land surrounding our private properties. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a fire break surrounding the entire community?
  • - The USFS spent a great deal of money protecting our beloved Cave Creek Canyon and local economy from the Horseshoe II fire. However, the forest service remains concerned about their ability to defend private property in the Wildland-Urban-Interface, (WUI) from future wildfires without our help in reducing fuels and making our properties firewise.
  • - Efforts to become Firewise make us eligible to apply for 90:10 grants to pay for much of fuels reduction. That is, should you pay up front for $100 of fuels reduction, such a grant would refund $90 to you afterwards.
  • - Becoming Firewise may lower your home insurance costs with some companies.
  • - Finally, and especially if you look around and feel overwhelmed by the imagined effort needed to reduce fuels on your property, we can put you in touch with the leader of a prison crew specializing in exactly this task, and doing so at a reasonable rate.

So look around you, visualize the lurking dangers, and please commit to joining us in striving for safety from wildfires. Whether you live full time in Portal or are part-time residents, you bought property here because of the beauty and serenity of our natural environment. Help us to safeguard this very special place.

Hoping you will join us,
The Portal Firewise Committee

To arrange your free firewise assessment of your property, Contact Debb Johnson or Lee Dyal

Please watch these Youtube videos to understand our efforts.

Howard Topoff 2011