Several Payson neighborhoods at high risk of fires have been made safer this winter through a series of joint projects making use of inmates.
The town, along with the Arizona State Land Department, has used inmates in several fuel reduction projects around Payson. The Forest Service used inmates on projects elsewhere in the Rim country, including Pine.
This week, a crew from the Arizona Department of Corrections'
facility in Globe, working with the land department, finished a fuel reduction program in the Woodhill and Alpine Village areas. Earlier projects have involved property around Rumsey Park and Alpine Heights, said Lee Ann Beery of the state land department.
"This is exactly what the governor wants (for forest health and fire protection). These crews are out here creating fuel breaks that will protect homes," Beery said.
At least one homeowner went on record to express satisfaction with the project.
"I love the idea," said Carla Gaskill, who has a home next to the fuel break. "My husband and I have no objections to the inmates working (here). We've been worried about that hill. It's a dangerous hill. Every time we walk by it, we wonder, ‘Is that hill going to burn?' The winds always blow predominantly from that direction (down the hill toward homes)."
The use of DOC work crews has minimized the cost of the projects to the residents of Payson. Beery said there are generally about 10 inmates, plus two officers to guard them, out of the Globe facility. The Forest Service inmate crew comes from the ADOC facility in Winslow and contains 10 to 20 workers, along with two supervisors, Beery said.
The thinning project around Woodhill and Alpine Village was completed this week, Beery said. The new firebreak extends about 100 feet from the private property boundaries.
"We had a town employee running the chipper where it was possible, but the terrain in some places will make it necessary to burn (slash)," Beery said. "That should be starting March 21, weather permitting."
Burning activities will create some smoke in the area, but the impact to neighboring subdivisions is expected to be temporary and minimal, officials said.
In addition to the Woodhill-Alpine Village sites completed this week, other areas where the treatment work is complete are: the northwest corner of Rumsey Park adjacent to the Woodhill subdivision; a section of Rumsey between the tennis courts and the dog park; and around the library, west of McLane Road; plus a strip of land owned by the town in the Alpine Heights area.
For more information, or to schedule a neighborhood information meeting, contact Robb Beery, (928) 474-5242, ext. 300.