Honor Them All For What They Are Willing To Do


Easy enough to honor firefighters for what they do. But in truth, we honor them mostly for what they’re willing to do and pray they never have to.

So last week, the Rim Country Rotary Club held a little ceremony to honor Payson’s Capt. Sam Mays as Firefighter of the Year and Brandon Buckner as Police Officer of the Year.

Now, no doubt about it — the captain earned that award in the course of years of service. He can fix anything, attack any fire, cope with any medical emergency. He’s a gruff fireman’s fireman — equally adept with a heart monitor or a socket wrench. More important, he knows how to turn a green firefighter recruit into a seasoned lifesaver — all while looking like he could bite the head off a fire hydrant.

Buckner, who started with the PPD just three years ago, exemplifies the drive and work ethic of a model officer, according to his boss, Police Chief Don Engler.

“He is always ready to assist with any task,” Engler said. “On the street he is aggressive as an investigative officer. He also helps with graffiti abetment and National Night Out.”

He makes a sergeant’s job easy, he added.

So we join with Rotary, fellow firefighters and officers in recognizing their service to this community — along with other honorees Beth Lacey, Celena Ortiz, Monica Savage, fireman Jerome Lubetz and two firefighting companies who handled difficult calls. One company followed a whiff of smoke to a hidden fire that could have caused tragedy if not discovered. Another team saved a child from choking.

Truth be told, we must honor our firefighters and police officers for the things we pray they’ll never have to do — but know they would rush to perform in the thud of a heartbeat.

Historic agreement protects Rim Country

Let’s admit it up front: We editorial writers aren’t prone to fits of idealistic optimism. Usually, optimism makes us feel more like Charlie Brown lining up for another run at the football as Lucy smirks.

But we just might make an exception at news 20 groups that have battled one another for decades, last week lined up to sign an agreement that just might save Payson, Pine, Strawberry and other forest communities from destruction.

Specifically, the U.S. Forest Service on Wednesday in Flagstaff signed a memorandum of understanding intended to put a reinvented timber industry back to work thinning our dangerously overgrown forests.

The organizations in on the historic deal included representatives of timber companies and the leading environmental organization in the state, who have all forged a precious consensus.

It comes down to this: Millions of acres of once grassy, diverse, fire-resistant forests with an average of 30 to 50 trees per acre have grown into fire traps groaning with 500 to 1,000 trees per acre.

As a result, sickly forest ecosystems and the communities they surround face a dire threat from the next wildfire holocaust.

This disastrous ecological transformation grew from a century of well-intentioned mismanagement. Studies show that it stemmed from the elimination of the low-intensity ground fires that once burned through every five years. That change came from a combination of cattle grazing that removed the grass and a century of fire suppression that allowed thickets of small trees to grow.

Moreover, repeated rounds of tree harvesting consumed big trees that produced the profit for the sawmills. As a result, the timber industry all but vanished from Arizona’s high country, leaving the thickets to accumulate.

The terrifying Rodeo-Chediski Fire in 2002 consumed 500,000 acres, threatened the town of Show Low and finally forced forest managers to face the danger. Years of debate, discussion and study have finally brought the once-warring parties now to this historic agreement.

Key issues remain. The Forest Service must turn this consensus into long-term contracts that will guarantee timber companies enough wood to induce them to invest millions in a new generation of mills and power plants. Those mills must live on trees less than 16 inches in diameter, which means they will make composite lumber, particle boards and pellets for bio-fuel power plants. The Forest Service will likely have to experiment with 20- and 30-year contracts to make that happen.

Nonetheless, last week’s signing ceremony marks a historic triumph for both science and common sense.

It’s enough to make an editorial writer feel, well ... what’s the word? Oh. Yeah. Optimistic.


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