When I heard the initial news report that the local Forest Service officials had made the decision to let the Willow Fire burn, as "there was no immediate threat to any structures," that decision threw me for a loop. I could not believe what I had just heard. I said to my wife at the time, "if this is true, it is an irresponsible decision on their part we have extremely dry, heavy fuels out there, extremely low humidity and no rain in sight and there is always a possibility for erratic winds in that area, this could easily explode to several thousand acres in a couple of hours."
Well, we all know what happened.
There never should have been a question as to what course of action to take, instead there should have been an immediate order to attack this fire with all appropriate available resources at hand.
I am thoroughly convinced that this fire could have been contained to only a few acres with maybe a few thousand dollars in cost had this decision been made. Instead we ended up with a flaming inferno that is going to cost the taxpayer many millions in fire fighting expenses; thousands of dollars in lost sales tax revenue; and the risk to all residents' health from smoke, ash and soot.
Due to the magnitude of this fire and the press it has received you can bet it has drawn special attention from the insurance companies and surely we can expect an increase in our property fire insurance rates as a result.
It is one thing to let a fire burn and keep an eye on it under normal moisture conditions, but to allow this to happen under current conditions was strictly irresponsible. Is there no accountability here?
Our community may have dodged a bullet on this one but unless there are changes made with the decision making process, we may not be so lucky next time -- God forbid!
We owe a debt of gratitude to our many men and women that have done a superb job in protecting our community from this fire, you are to be commended for an excellent job you have done and are doing.
L. Johnson, Payson