Crews from the Payson Ranger District went traipsing through the woods this week — setting fire to everything in sight. We’re so glad.
The crews set fire to about 1,300 acres along the Control Road up by Whispering Pines, taking advantage of the cool, still relatively damp weather to thin out brush and saplings that have grown back into an area thinned out some years ago.
The controlled burn will help create a buffer zone to protect Whispering Pines and other communities from a roaring wildfire this summer. The project is essential given the number of Valley visitors that descend on Whispering Pines every summer, scattering out along the East Verde River and starting innumerable campfires. Volunteers from the Whispering Pines Fire Department work with the Forest Service every summer to visit with the visitors and remind them not to burn the place down — but the buffer zone could well save the community.
Many residents cough and mutter when the smoke from a controlled burn like the one visible from all over Rim Country this week drifts through their community. We sympathize.
Still, we can’t help but feel a little surge of happiness when the smoke from such a prescribed fire rises in the distance. Makes us feel safe and cozy.
Make no mistake, wildfire remains the most relentless threat to the future of this community. We’re grateful to the Payson Ranger District for working so deftly and consistently to get the money for thinning projects — and the follow-up up controlled burns necessary to keep us all safe.