City Council discusses 2020 wildfire preparedness


Flagstaff City Council held another telecommunication meeting to discuss the city's wildfire preparedness and seasonal outlook for 2020 and the Flagstaff Water Services Strategic Plan 2025.

Interim Wildland Fire Manager Paul Oltrogge said wildfire severity and duration is highly dependent upon drought conditions, the weather, the monsoon season, ignition sources and the effects of COVID-19 on fire operations.

"The COVID-19 pandemic has surely changed the process of how we do things, but it is not changing what we do or why we do it," Oltrogge said.

Moreover, Oltrogge said the city has a variety of resources from the United States Forest Service to aid in wildfire prevention and detection. In addition, the COVID-19 pandemic has sidelined the city's prescribed burns to limit smoke exposure to firefighters and surrounding communities during the pandemic.

Although the council meeting was held via telecommunication, Arizona Public Service (APS) submitted a comment card for Flagstaff City Council to voice their appreciation of the service being provided by the Wildland Fire Management team.

"APS appreciates the work of everyone involved in protecting our community from the start of wildfires and how pleased we are in playing a role in those efforts," the comment card stated. "Safety and reliability is our top priority for us and we work year-round to minimize the risk of wildfires and educate our customers on the importance of being fire wise."

After discussing the city's wildfire preparedness, the council moved to the next discussion item which was on the newly created Flagstaff Water Services Strategic Plan 2025.

Water Services Director Brad Hill said it is important to develop a plan that focuses on the future, addressing the risks such as wildfires and flooding, major decisions, needed investments and opportunities that will likely arise within the next five years.

"This strategic plan provides an overview of the values, standards and major water issues facing Flagstaff, from the internal staff's perspective over the next five years," Hill said. "It is important to note that this plan does not reflect final policy decisions, but instead creates a context for collaborative discussions with the city council, community leaders and the public on how to address the issues identified in the plan."

Hill said the plan is of critical importance given his impending retirement after 12 years with the city and the past nine as the Water Services Director. The strategic plan aims to establish a foundation for additional information gathering, collaboration with the community on specific issues and investments and final policy decisions.

During Tuesday's meeting, Hill said the impacts of climate change are accelerating and the Water Resource Division is committed to working with the city council to appropriately invest in the future of Flagstaff.

"Communication is critical to ensuring that we have made appropriate investments to our water resources and infrastructure," Hill said.