Fire Crew Yields To Recreation Program

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It looks like the two-month Summer Recreation Center program held in the Rim Country Middle School gymnasium will go on as planned this summer after all.

The program almost got pushed out on the street by a crew of 20 firefighters in town to back up the local Hot Shots during what experts believe will be an unusually dangerous wildfire season. Such crews are Type 2 seasonal firefighters who assist as needed in places around the country where conditions warrant.

"This will be an all-Native American crew," Don Nunley, fuels specialist for the Payson Ranger District, said.

The crew will arrive Monday and will be housed at Camp Geronimo until school is out.

"At that point, the camp will get busy, so they need someplace else to eat, sleep and shower," Nunley said. "When we booked the middle school gym, we weren't aware of the conflict."

Nobody seems to know exactly how the mix-up occurred.

RCMS principal Frank Larby said the district's maintenance office called a few days ago and told him the gym had been rented to the Forest Service because the parks department hadn't reserved it.

"We got a phone call from the middle school saying their gym would not be available and our program would have to be put on hold," Teddy Pettet, town recreation coordinator, said.

"I have no problem having the summer recreation program here at RCMS," Larby said. "I have a summer school program and the kids can go over there and burn off some energy."

The eight-week summer program is for children in the fifth grade and up. It includes billiards, ping pong, Foosball, air hockey, board games, basketball, Wiffle ball and other activities.

"It provides a place for kids to hang out in the summer," Pettet said.

However it occurred, once the Payson Ranger District was made aware of the mix-up, they set out to correct it.

"The Forest Service said they didn't want to be the ones who denied the summer program a home," Pettet said.

"I just got an e-mail telling me the firefighters will be housed at Payson Elementary School for bed and breakfast and will use the high school facilities for showers.

"It looks like the summer program is a go."

Nunley said the fire crew will stay in Payson until sufficient rain falls to reduce the threat of wildfires. The crew is funded by the federal government.

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