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Q: In the outlying areas like Mesa del Caballo and Beaver Valley, they're cleaning up around the perimeters (to reduce the fire danger). My understanding is that the fire departments are getting paid to do that, but then they're asking for volunteers. Which is it -- a volunteer situation or are they getting paid?

A: Nobody is receiving a dime in pay, according to Houston Mesa Fire Department Chief Frank Hansen.

"Under the Regional Payson Area Project, for every hour of volunteers I have out there we get $10 credit towards matching a $2,000 grant that Mesa del received," Hansen said. "We put labor into it, instead of cash. This is called ‘in kind.' With the grant we are going to hire equipment for the interior of the community -- for chippers, compactors, garbage trucks, tools and equipment.

"The volunteers are exactly that. We provide them lunch, which is donated by the Mesa del Community Center. The fire department has also taken out a workman's comp policy in case anybody gets hurt. Those are the only benefits that they get."

"We're doing this in a number of communities around the Rim country simultaneously," said RPAP coordinator Chuck Jacobs. "It not only creates defensible spaces, but it actually makes the forest healthier by reducing competition for the remaining trees."

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