HEBER-OVERGAARD — The Heber-Overgaard Firewise Council (HOFC) is proud to announce Overgaard begins 2020 as a Firewise USA Community.

The unincorporated area that comprises Overgaard Firewise USA is roughly 4,860 acres or seven square miles. It was an ambitious undertaking. Local, county and state agencies occasionally touched on Firewise issues. No one had addressed them.

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) is a global nonprofit organization. Their Firewise USA program encourages homeowners to be proactive. The Heber-Overgaard Firewise Council (HOFC) was formed by Dan Mapstone, retired Deputy Chief of Fire Operations, Cleveland National Forest with an expertise in wildland-urban interface.

Dan recruited local wildland fire professionals and concerned citizens to serve on the council. With a few dedicated volunteers, the HOFC sought Firewise recognition for Overgaard. The council created a risk assessment for Overgaard, as well as an action plan. Their assessments and plans were shared during community outreach activites. Residents were given educational tools to reduce their wildfire risks.

Overgaard’s subdivisions were built back in the mid 1960s and 1970s. The homes were adjuncts to the recreational lakes along the Mogollon Rim. Black Canyon, Willow Springs, Woods Canyon and Chevelon Canyon lakes were created by Arizona Game & Fish. These subdivisions were developed with few, if any, fire hydrants. There have been no new fire hydrants in Overgaard for over 15 years.

Year-round population in Overgaard is 3,000 people. They occupy around 800 homes. Residency swells to 12,000 people, during the summer season. Our multi-use national forest generates seasonal recreational visitors — with an additional 1,200 occupied homes — Overgaard’s total occupancy is 2,000 sites.

We asked our neighbors to provide a 5 to 30-foot defensible space around their homes in 2018. Overgaard has extremely enthusiastic Firewise participants. We are also fortunate to have the Heber-Overgaard Brush Pit.

Tri Star Logging is a Snowflake company that recycles wood products from the Heber-Overgaard Brush Pit. That’s why we’re asked to keep pine needles separate. They do not chip. No dirt or rocks in any loads. The chipped materials are used as a renewable fuel source. Reducing our wildfire fuels to provide biomass fuels, brilliant!

High Country Pines II Homeowners Association (HOA) approached the HOFC in early 2018 seeking help for their Firewise program. Now the HOA board is submitting an application for their 178 sites to NFPA for Firewise USA recognition. Dan worked closely with Dennis Prewitt for years and is now providing guidance to Terri Simmons — neighbors helping neighbors.

Our Overgaard neighbors volunteer each time they rake their yard. They have sweat equity in their Firewise community when they clean their gutters. All the work they perform around their property is an investment in their Firewise community. Some insurace companies, such as USAA, provide discounted homeowner’s insurance in seven states for Firewise prevention. Arizona is one of them. Ask your insurance agent if your policy allows for Firewise discounts.

Our all volunteer executive council members are also Arizona State Firewise Community Assessors. Dave Maurer is a USFS Forester and firefighter. Steve Crawford was sawyer on the Heber Hotshots and is currently a tree surgeon. Walt Royal volunteers with Post 86, American Legion, Top of the Rim Eagles and the HOFC.

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(1) comment


Great article but you sure missed a great portion of the folks who worked extremely hard to make this happen. The Heber-Overgaard Fire District in partnership with Navajo County was instrumental in getting state wildland hazardous fuels grants to address the serious threat of wildfire in the area. My congratulations to them for protecting the community.

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