Last week, a group of boys decided to play with matches in a dry, grassy back yard and the entire community almost got burned.
The boys caught the grass on fire, got scared and ran away. Luckily, a nearby homeowner spotted the smoke as he was driving by and took quick, decisive action.
He called 9-1-1, grabbed a garden hose and started fighting the fire. Despite his efforts, however, he was losing the battle by the time the Payson Fire Department arrived two minutes after his call for help.
Firefighters brought the fire under control in short order and stopped it just a few feet away from one home and five feet away from another.
Although the homes were spared, the fire scorched a dog house and a backyard fence, which now stand as charred reminders of the tragedy that nearly befell the entire neighborhood.
As firefighters worked to save the homes and apartments in the area, a group of children gathered outside the apartment complex just 15 feet away to watch the excitement.
It is our hope that their parents, and parents throughout the community, will take a few minutes around the dinner table tonight to tell their children not to play with fire.
It may seem obvious, but while we're in the midst of the driest fire season we've had in 10 years, it's a point worth repeating.
"If a parent perceives even a small problem, it needs to be dealt with," Payson Firefighter Dawn Zurcher said. "Usually, it's just curiosity, but it can be just as deadly."
Parents and grandparents who need help talking with their children and grandchildren about fire safety can call Zurcher or Assistant Fire Chief Don Rose at 474-5242, ext. 300 for advice and a free pamphlet called, "Small Hands, Big Fires: Juvenile Firesetter awareness."
"Three- and 4-year-olds have been known to burn down houses and kill people," Zurcher said. "They don't know what they're doing."