It seems to be the popular thing to blame "environmentalists" for supposedly preventing the forest thinning that could have prevented the Rodeo-Chediski disaster. It's questionable how much that applies in this case, since both the Rodeo and Chediski fires started and spread on the Fort Apache Indian Reservation, which, as far as I know, is not under Forest Service control, and where logging is still an important part of the economy.
And, as Senator Kyl has pointed out, most mainstream environmental groups do support forest thinning near communities.
There are many factors involved, including drought, decades of fire suppression, and arson, and I'm sure that the causes of that disaster will be debated for some time.
In any case, a more useful question for Payson residents would be whether we are doing what we can to prevent a similar tragedy here.
As the relatively few people who attended the town fire meeting June 3 will know, the Forest Service has done a small amount of thinning on the outskirts of Payson, and will do much more this coming winter. The delay is due to their need to first complete a plant inventory in the area, and not because of any threatened lawsuit.
In the meantime, grant money is available to help homeowners remove brush from around their homes to create a "defensible space."
I recently spent several days limbing trees and clearing brush, and the Payson Fire Department very helpfully brought by a chipper (for free) to dispose of the pile. As I walk the streets of Payson, though, I see relatively few homes that are being made more fire-safe. If a fire does enter Payson and homes burn because of thick brush accumulation, I suppose we can always just blame it on the "environmentalists."
Better yet, while there's still time, we could do everything possible to prevent it from happening in the first place.
Steve Willing, Payson