With a federal grant ending Sunday, Pine-Strawberry officials want residents to stop putting brush piles out at the street for pickup.
For the past several years, P-S residents could place yard clippings out at the street for free disposal, thanks to grants funding the FireWise Communities Program intended to reduce wildfire risk by keeping brush away from houses.
Research suggests that landscaping around houses often poses a serious risk. Firefighters call the 200 feet surrounding a home the “ignition zone,” and the area where trees should be pruned and brush removed.
Last year, P-S Fire applied for a federal grant to continue the brush pickup program, but was denied, said P-S Fire Chief David Staub.
Instead, Pine Strawberry Fuel Reduction Inc., (PSFR) a group of local residents, received the grant.
P-S Fire and the group agreed to swap grants so the fire department could continue the brush removal service.
As part of the swap, P-S Fire gave PSFR a Wildland Urban Interface Grant to clear the land around Camp LoMia.
The 197-acre girls camp was choked with manzanita, oak and pine trees, according to PSFR’s Web site.
“The girls camp is located directly in the ‘chimney’ formed by Pine Creek Canyon and for many years has been called one of the top potential fire dangers in the country,” according to the Web site. “This left the camp and Pine Creek Canyon vulnerable to a catastrophic wildfire similar to those around Greer and Alpine, Arizona in 2011.”
While it did that work, P-S Fire continued the brush program, which employed two part-time and one full-time workers. For 40 hours every week, the men would drive through six different zones, picking up yard clippings at the street, Staub said.
On Sunday, the federal funding for the program ended. Crews will only make one more trip to pick up any remaining piles.
While the brush pickup program is ending, the fuels reduction program is not, Staub said.
Homeowners interested in having their property assessed can still call the fire department, at (928) 476-4272, for more information.
There is roughly $60,000 left in the grant to clear properties not meeting FireWise standards. Staub said the state does not want to fund maintenance programs, but is still funding these fuels reduction programs.
“I see the state’s perspective, but I think they are missing the value of creative maintenance programs,” he said.