Fuels Reduction Program Faces Alarming Budget Ax

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Editor:

An agenda item about service reduction levels was a topic of discussion at the recent Pine-Strawberry Fire District board meeting. The impending lowering of the assessed property valuations as well as the end to State of Arizona grants may portend the discontinuance of a key fire prevention program, namely fuels reduction. This program provides a direct benefit to Pine and Strawberry property owners because it is predicated on the pickup and disposal of brush, and pine spills around habitable structures. The removal of these fuel sources is critical to maintaining a defensible, residential perimeter, much like the fire break encompassing these small communities is intended to do in the event of a wildfire.

At the meeting, concern was expressed that state grant funding may end. If this occurs, and it is determined the residents want this program to continue, then the fire district must find the money, between $80,000 and $100,000, to continue it.

Over the next few weeks, the district fire chief is to convene a working group to look at alternative ways to fund the program. A property tax override election was one of the ways mentioned during the meeting. This group is to present its findings at the next board meeting.

Fuels removal is a major fire prevention effort that is a direct benefit to Pine and Strawberry residents. If state grant funding is drying up, perhaps the working group should look to private organizations for help. Large corporations like APS and Waste Management both service customers in this area. Likewise, they both have corporate giving programs that might be tapped for resources.

Or, perhaps it is time for the PSFD board to divest itself of the fuels reduction program. Maybe the program should be turned over to the local, non-profit community group that oversees the fire break management. Just a little fuel for thought.

Peter A. Plante

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