Fuel Break Funding Dropped By Fire Board


The Pine-Strawberry Fire Board will hold a special meeting at 6 p.m. this evening, Tuesday, at the Pine fire station to reconsider a motion to award a bid to continue operation of a highly popular hazardous fuel reduction program in the tiny mountain hamlets.

At the regularly scheduled June 21 meeting, the motion died for want of a second.


If the Pine-Strawberry Fire Board approves a bid to reduce hazardous fuels in the area, it would help homeowners clean their properties and build defensible spaces where wildfires can be stopped and homes saved.

Steve Witman, a Pine resident who attended the meeting, was flabbergasted none of the members seconded the motion.

"They just left it hanging. (They) sat there on their hands," he said.

Witman also said he was surprised board members did not jump to act on a fire issue that is so critical to the two communities.

The four members present were chairman Dan McKinney, Forrest McCoy, Ross Gooder and Rose Harper.

Harper made the motion to accept a bid from Bob Lee and Sons.

Neither Gooder or McCoy offered a second.

As chairman, rules forbid McKinney from seconding motions.

The chairman remains unsure if the motion will receive a second and be passed at this evening's meeting.

"You never know," he said. "I've learned that sometimes things look like an absolute million dollar sure thing and they don't pass."

The board chairman anticipates a full contingent of five members present at tonight's meeting.

A fifth fire board member, Jessica Barnett -- also a school board member -- was recently added.

Which means, there will be one more member to second a motion and bring the bid to a vote.

Pine-Strawberry Fire Captain Steve Brandt, who oversees the program, said he did not know why the motion was not seconded at the meeting but it could have been that members were not happy with the bids received.

The $145,000 forest fuel reduction program is funded by a 50-50 grant with the state.

With it, the fire department hires landscaping contractors, like Bob Lee and Sons, to help homeowners reduce hazardous fuels on private property in the two rural communities.

The contractors also help build defensible spaces from which the spread of a wildfire can be stopped and homes saved.

Forest Service officials say the defensible breaks reduce the risk of wildland fires to structures and environment while providing for firefighter and public safety.

Most of the funds Brandt uses to pay the matching grant come from state government "in-kind" distributions.

He explains in-kind as a program in which the fire department receives money for homeowners doing fire prevention work on their homes and property.

For example, if an owner does five hours work on his property and submits a time sheet to the fire department, Brandt would receive $10 from government coffers for each hour worked.

"The money comes through the federal government and is distributed from the state land department," Brandt said.

Tonight's fire board meeting is open to the public.

-- To reach Max Foster call 474-5251 ext. 114 or e-mail mfoster@payson.com.

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