Here are some tips to keep your family and home safe during wildfire season. Paige Schwahn/USA Today Network
Breezy Pine residents and summer-home owners watching the Goodwin Fire advance toward their mountain village have been down this road before.
Some of them raced against the threat of the 2012 Gladiator Fire, speeding past the combustible manzanita and shrubs up Poland Junction Road — the gravel access to the mountain canyon enclave — to retrieve valuables and keepsakes.
Breezy Pine, as the name implies, is a forested retreat, and one that has so far evaded the fires that have routinely scorched other mountains around its notch in Big Bug Mesa, southeast of Prescott.
On Tuesday evening, as the Goodwin Fire threatened, officials evacuated the village.
The threat was not new.
In the days after the deadly Yarnell Hill Fire four years ago, The Arizona Republic asked the coordinator of the Prescott area’s volunteer wildfire fuels-reduction team to identify an outpost similarly primed to burn.
That coordinator, the late Gary Roysdon, immediately pointed the truck for Breezy Pine. He had long feared the nearby scrub hills and the overhanging evergreens would one day torch the village, and he preached the virtues of defensible space.
2013: ‘A disaster waiting to happen’
“It’s just a disaster waiting to happen,” Roysdon said that day.
It was one of many potential Yarnell Hill echoes in a state that continues building into wildfire country.
Some of the residents then agreed they might need to pare vegetation, and others said they accepted the risks with the reward of cool summer breezes. The unincorporated community was considering an application to become a “firewise community,” a designation that required certain commitments toward brush clearing in exchange for grants.
Neighbors ultimately worked their properties on their own, summer-home owner Pam Camacho said this week. She and her family keep the pine needles swept and the brush cut, and have removed a big tree behind their home.
Risk flares again
Despite the years of scares and preparations, she said, evacuations come as a shock. She left for her Phoenix home the day before the official evacuation, but didn’t think she would be gone long.
“You really don’t ever expect this,” Camacho said. “You know, we’re up there, having fun, and then you have to leave.
“Even this time I took nothing with me. I thought for sure I was coming back to do our annual poker run.”
Instead, she awaited word on the village’s fate.
“We’re just trying not to worry about it,” she said. “People are losing their homes that they live in. Ours is just a summer home.”
Environmental coverage on azcentral.com and in the Arizona Republic is supported by a grant from the Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust.
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