Guess we’re not quite as bad as the Emperor Nero: He fiddled while Rome burned. We’re fiddling before Payson actually burns.
Witness the distressing closure of the brush pits, where homeowners can dispose of brush cleared from their properties.
The pits shut down about two weeks ago after Gila County suddenly discovered it couldn’t keep giving operating money to a group set up by several fire departments in the area to operate the brush disposal sites. The group apparently isn’t a 401c3 non-profit, so someone at the county pulled the plug. Gotta follow the rules, you know. Must be taking lessons from the Forest Service.
Everyone seemed to just shrug, until the alarmed chiefs of the Hellsgate, Houston Mesa, Christopher-Kohl’s and Pine Strawberry fire departments took up the question. Realizing the region must clear brush to avoid the fate of Yarnell and other communities, the chiefs are casting about for a way to keep the brush pits open.
In the meantime, state and federal grants that have helped local groups continue their efforts to reduce the region’s terrible fire danger have largely dried up. Fire departments can no longer afford the curbside pickups that once helped owners keep their properties cleared.
Payson hasn’t paid much attention either, having already rebuffed the vital efforts of the other chiefs to move toward closer cooperation — perhaps even a merger of the various departments. But then, Payson hasn’t even taken up the issue of adopting a firewise building code. Guess the town council hasn’t noticed all the trees, the returning drought — and the tragic fate of Yarnell and the firefighters who tried to protect it.
Maybe they figure that since we’re not actually on fire at the moment, there’s still time to fiddle around.