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Builders facing pressure to keep up with Arizona housing demand

KNXV Scottsdale Dynamite Brush Fire.jpg
Posted at 4:22 PM, May 26, 2021

PHOENIX — Builders are facing more pressure to keep up with housing demand forcing them to look for more places to construct new homes.

It’s leading new developments to areas where our untouched desert wild land meets urban development, sparking concerns over extreme fire danger.

“Whose car is this, can you move it please just so it’s not near the fire hydrant?” asked Scottsdale Fire Inspector Joe Kamal as he approached a construction site in the Story Rock Development of Northeast Scottsdale.

“Do you guys have a fire extinguisher here?” asked Kamal to one of the workers.

Scottsdale Fire is tackling a big problem. One that isn’t going away anytime soon.

The housing market boom caused by an extremely low supply of homes is forcing builders to rapidly fill the gap anywhere they can.

“Most times, sparks are what cause it,” said Kamal.

Kamal and his team say home construction continues to creep further and further into the desert wild land and when the two meet, it can be an ingredient for disaster.

“Last year we had around seventy brush fires that we responded to from Scottsdale, probably 90 percent of those were started from construction chains being drug, many from the sparks produced from cutting and welding,” said Deputy Chief Kerry Swick.

They’re now taking preventative measures to stop it. Inspectors are canvassing new build sites all over north Scottsdale. Swick showed ABC15 a document with sixty-one colored dots mapping out where they’ve been, so far this year.

“No, that extinguisher is discharged; you got another one there? No? Well, you need to shut this work down until you get an extinguisher,” said Kamal to the workers.

Kamal says extinguishers for emergencies, access for fire personal, and fire hydrants can make all the difference if an accident were to occur.

“A fire doubles every minute that it burns without water getting on it,” added Kamal.

Within minutes a new extinguisher arrived on site. “I’m putting an update that the situation is corrected with a fire extinguisher,” said Kamal as he types into his phone.

All the information collected during these visits is updated and logged into an app.

“I was able to go to this database, and know the person, who to contact and get them out here to solve the problem,” said Kamal.

“This is going to be a part of our life from here on out,” said Swick who added that many times workers fail to call the fire department right away when a fire begins out of fear of getting in trouble. Something they are also planning to speak about with workers.

The problem continues to be made worse by simple mistakes as structures pop up at record speed. With more of our urban interface meeting the dense brush and unkept desert of our wild land, it will take intervention like this to make sure our communities past and future don’t go up in smoke.

“As long as there’s people in the area doing construction, we need to be there to keep an eye on it and try to get ahead of it,” said Kamal.