Wildfires are normally in the news this time of year. At the time of this writing, the Waldo Canyon fire is still burning out of control in Colorado Springs and is only about 45% contained. Lives have been lost, in addition to the millions of dollars in property damage.
Arizona is often at the center of attention when it comes to wildfires. Sitting at the geographic center of the state, the area known as ‘Arizona Rim Country‘ is especially at risk for a catastrophic fire. Located around the largest stands of ponderosa pines in the entire world, several mountain communities, including Pine and Strawberry are favorites among outdoor enthusiasts. However, in the beauty of these forests lies one of the biggest dangers: fuel.
According to the Pine Strawberry Fuel Reduction Committee, the tree density in these areas have increased from an average of 3-10 trees per acre in 1900 to over 1000 per acre. Devastating fires have ripped through these areas before, but these mountain towns are fighting back and receiving national attention for their efforts.
Because of a drop in federal funds, the Pine Strawberry Fuel Reduction Committee was established in 2004 to provide these communities with wildfire protection. Their main objectives are:
- Provide wildfire education for prevention and awareness
- Fund drives to clear fuel breaks
- Implement seeding projects
- Brush pickups for residents on a weekly basis
Through PSFR’s involvement, these communities have become dedicated to protecting their property and their forests and in 2011, they enlisted mountain bikers to help.
PSFR and the Mountain Bike Association of Arizona joined forces in 2011 and the Fire on the Rim mountain bike race was born. How does a mountain bike race help fight wildfires? For starters, 100% of the proceeds of the race go directly to the PSFR, but that is just one of the dynamics of this race.
It’s no secret that trails provide natural fuel breaks. Take a look at this picture, courtesy of Jeff Kerkove.
The rider is Jim Fu, a member of the Epic Endurance Cycling Team and they’re riding in Lory State Park, CO. The remnants of the High Park Fire can be seen to the right of the singletrack. While the landscape to the left of the trail remains unscathed.