The following article was published in the Arizona Daily Sun on April 30, 2013
The Hardy Fire scorched southeast of Flagstaff in June of 2010, drawing dangerously close to several neighborhoods and forcing Flagstaff Fire Department officials to implement mandatory evacuations. Luck would have it that forested areas around the Little America hotel had been treated to diminish fire intensity, allowing firefighters to contain the fire that had, at one point, jumped across a nearly eighth of a mile Rio De Flag drainage. After several days, when firefighters had containment in their sight, the Hardy fire’s big sister peeked out as black smoke rising above mountains to the north— the Schultz fire had begun it’s run.
The days that followed serve as a sharp reminder of the devastation forest fires can present. Nearly 50 homes northeast of the city were damaged by the subsequent flooding and 15,000 acres of forest were destroyed. City of Flagstaff officials, realizing the necessity of forest treatments near the city to avoid a more disastrous repeat of the Schultz fire, began a public awareness campaign in 2012 that culminated in the passage of proposition 405 in November to allocate $10 million of taxpayer money on what is now known as the Flagstaff Watershed Protection Project (FWPP).
Voters approved the proposition with a near 74 percent approval rating. Unlike other locally sourced funding for similar projects around the nation, Flagstaff’s is the first to result from a direct citizen vote. Other projects rely on utility fees over time for preservation projects, whereas Flagstaff’s model allows for quicker implementation with immediate funding.