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Monday, February 27, 2012

Canyon fuel break will protect Pine from wildfire

Payson, Ariz. (February 22, 2012). During the Arizona wildfire season in 2011, nearly 2,000 fires scorched more than a million acres. Only Texas and New Mexico suffered more acres damaged by wildfire last year.

The recent Wallow Fire, at 500,000-plus acres, which burned in eastern Arizona last year, clearly demonstrated the effectiveness of both property treatment and fuel breaks in reducing fire intensities.

A study completed by the US Forest Service concluded that prior fuel treatments were instrumental in providing the critical edge firefighters needed to successfully fight the Wallow Fire, protecting lives and property and enhancing firefighter safety.

Payson Ranger District fire officials have worked steadily since 2001 to create and maintain fuel breaks in the area.

They recently partnered with Pine Strawberry Fuel Reduction, Inc. (PSFR), a community-based, nonprofit group committed to wildfire mitigation, with plans to thin 77 untreated acres south of Pine. When PSFR raised enough funds from the private sector to complete only about half of the project, district officials stepped in to augment their funds in order to complete the project.

The Arrowhead Canyon Fuel Break will be instrumental in mitigating the ever-present wildfire danger posed by the mouth of two canyons that lead directly into the community of Pine.

“Reducing the heavy fuel loading in this area is necessary to diminish the threat of wildfire to the town of Pine,” emphasized Jeremy Plain, Payson Ranger District Assistant Fire Management Officer.

"PSFR and the Payson Ranger District fire specialists have an enviable history of partnership dating back to 2005 when PSFR successfully raised private sector funds to provide desperately needed maintenance on the 711-acre fuel break surrounding Pine and Strawberry," observed Mike Brandt, Project Manager for Pine Strawberry Fuel Reduction, Inc.

"The PSFR group has since seeded the break with native grasses, built a log ramada as a showcase for forest products and treated 225 privately-owned acres which adjoin the break, further enhancing its effectiveness. Additionally, another 200 acres of private land at the mouth of Pine Creek Canyon, long cited as one of the most hazardous areas in the country, will be completed this year."

"At the end of the day, however, partnerships will never replace individual responsibility,” observed Brandt. "Taking steps to reduce wildfire risks includes individual property owners practicing Firewise techniques to protect their property, as well as communities building and maintaining effective fuel breaks.”

For further information about the Pine-Strawberry Fuel Reduction, Inc., please contact Mike Brandt at 928-476-4272.  For further information about the district fuels program, please contact the Payson Ranger District administrative offices at 928-474-7900 or visit the Tonto National Forest Website at http://www.fs.usda.gov/tonto.

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