Uproar Settles After Fire Board Accepts Fuel Reduction Bid

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The Pine Strawberry Fire Department Board passed a motion to accept a bid that will continue operation of a hazardous fuel reduction program.

The measure was passed at a June 27 meeting after it died for want of a second at a board meeting held six days earlier.

The failure to pass the motion at the original meeting created an uproar in the two mountain communities.

After word spread, about 150 residents turned out for the Tuesday meeting held at the Pine fire station.

Fire Captain Mike Brandt, who oversees the fuel reduction program, said the failure to accept the bid the first time was "all a misunderstanding."

During the first meeting, board member Rose Harper made a motion to accept Brandt's recommendation to hire Bob Lee and Sons to help in fuel reductions.

Chairman Dan McKinney couldn't second because he is forbidden by rules of order to do so. Neither Ross Gooder or Forrest McCoy seconded Harper's motion which drew the ire of Pine residents, including Steve Witman.

"They just left it hanging," he said.

The fuel reduction program in Pine and Strawberry has long been a way to help protect the two tiny hamlets from a devastating wildfire by cutting down dead trees and removing dead and down vegetation.

The $140,000 forest fuel reduction program is funded by a 50-50 grant with the state.

With it, the fire department -- and now Bob Lee and Sons -- can help homeowners reduce hazardous fuels on private properties in the two communities.

The funds to match the grant comes from state government "in-kind" distributions.

Brandt explains in-kind as a program in which the Pine fire department receives money for homeowners doing their own fuel reduction work.

If the homeowners submit time sheets for their work to PSFD, the fire department receives $10 from the state for each hour worked.

For more information call (928) 476-4272.

-- To reach Max Foster call

474-5251 ext. 114 or e-mail mfoster@payson.com.

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