Hazy Days Ahead

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Payson residents can expect to see smoke in the northern and eastern skies for the next week as the Payson Ranger District conducts two prescribed burns.

The burns, one near Little Green Valley and one near Camp Geronimo, began Thursday and will continue through the weekend and into next week, according to a spokesperson for the district.

"We'll be burning near the Lion Project area, near Ponderosa Campground, near Thompson Draw, north of Little Green Valley," District Ranger Ed Armenta said. "We'll be treating a total of about 1,000 to 1,500 acres out in that country over the next week, probably biting off a couple hundred acres a day."

The other burn is taking place just southwest of Camp Geronimo and north of Geronimo Estates and involves several hundred acres, according to Armenta. District crews will be assisted by 16 trainees from a New Mexico academy.

"Today (Thursday), we're getting a crew from the Fire Use Training Academy out of Albuquerque," Armenta said. "It's a Forest Service-sponsored training academy that teaches people how to do prescribed burns."

Prescribed burning is a valuable management tool used to mitigate the danger of catastrophic wildfires, according to Gary Roberts, district fire prevention officer.

"It also helps us to enhance forest health by basically reducing woody plant competition, accelerating debris decomposition on the forest floor, and stimulating nutrient release back into the soil to make it a more vital soil," Roberts said.

Verde fuel reduction project

Another forest fuels management project, the Verde Wildland Urban Interface Project, was given final approval last week.

Karl Siderits, forest supervisor for the Tonto National Forest, approved actions that will include 29,193 acres of prescribed fire, 10,710 acres of thinning, 4,761 acres of constructed fuelbreaks and 37 miles of road maintenance.

"It covers all of that area basically from Beaver Valley up through Whispering Pines, Washington Park, Rim Trail, the Girl Scout camp, all the way across Webber Creek, Camp Geronimo, Geronimo Estates, and doesn't quite reach Pine," Bob Ortlund, district fire management officer, said. "We'll be doing Pine-Strawberry next."

The timetable for accomplishing the Verde actions depends on funding.

"Of course, we'll be burning out there," Ortlund said, "but the other kinds of treatment where we actually need to thin ... is pretty financially dependent. We'll be waiting on funding from the Healthy Forest Initiative and Congress is supposedly sending us more dollars this next fiscal year."

The Verde project decision is not subject to appeal, but copies of the decision notice and environmental assessment are available for review at the Payson Ranger Station, 1009 E. Highway 260. For additional information, contact Ed Paul at (928) 474-7979 or epaul@fs.fed.us.

Fuels reduction burning around Rumsey Park

There may be some smoke in the air starting Monday, March 22, as the brush piles that have been accumulated from the fuels reduction project around Rumsey Park will be burned off.

Weather permitting, personnel from the Fire Department will be burning off these brush piles before the dryer season is upon us.

"With the abundance of piles accumulated, we anticipate this burning to continue all week" said Fire Chief Marty deMasi. "We will be keeping a close eye on this burning and it will be discontinued in the event of any increase in winds or significant change in weather. We thank you for your patience during this operation as we assist in the fuels reduction throughout the Payson area providing for a safer environment."

For more information, call the Payson Fire Department at (928) 474-5242 ext. 300.

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