Lawn Mowers, Barbecues Off Limits In Pine-Strawberry

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Planning on mowing your lawn? If so, you'll need a permit from the Pine-Strawberry Fire Department to begin hacking down those dry blades of fading green.

According to fire restrictions that were enacted last week, residents must have permits from Fire Chief Paul Coe before operating outdoor power equipment in the Pine-Strawberry area.

Sparks from that type of equipment can cause a fire, Fire Marshal

John Varljen said, and as dry as the forest is, the fire could rage out of control in minutes.

"If we did not catch it almost immediately, we probably would not catch it," Varljen said.

To combat the tinder-dry conditions, local fire officials in cooperation with the Arizona State Land Department and the U.S. Forest Service established a list of fire restrictions, which declare "the entire (Pine-Strawberry) Fire District a hazardous fire area."

The restrictions stipulate that there can be no outdoor flames ignited in the area including cigarettes, charcoal grills, lanterns and flares.

Any exceptions to the rule must be approved by Chief Coe who has the authority to issue permits.

The chief granted a permit to Coldwell Banker Bishop Realty for a flame-cooked barbecue dinner in Pine Saturday night. More than 1,000 people showed up for the event.

The chief won't consider granting a permit unless the area around the grill is clear and it's not near anything that will burn, Varljen said, but ultimately it's a judgment call.

MVP Realty has requested a permit for a cooking fire at the Strawberry Festival this summer.

"They want to use grills around the windmill," Varljen said. Granting the permit, he said, "will be another judgment call and the final decision belongs to Chief Coe."

Due to the restrictions, Pine-Strawberry's Independence Day fireworks display may be in jeopardy.

According to Varljen, a fireworks permit will be approved, but the final decision to light up the sky will be made at the last minute.

"When you have (fireworks), it is a calculated risk," he said. "If we feel like we want to take the chance, we will, but the odds will be on our side."

In Payson, Rim Country Chamber of Commerce leaders plan to order fireworks and then pray for rain, said Rose Harper, a chamber board volunteer.

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