The residents of Whispering Pines have set the standard when it comes to taking action to protect their community from the looming threat of wildfire.
Spearheaded by the Whispering Pines Fire Department in partnership with the Payson Ranger District, a group of trained volunteers have taken action.
The Fire Department puts out Dumpsters to collect the astonishing amount of trash from campers and visitors.
Come the weekend, the volunteers don Forest Service shirts and visit every camper they can find to make sure they know about the fire restrictions — and how to safely douse their campfires when the fire conditions improve enough that the Forest Service allows campfires.
Most weekends, the volunteers make hundreds of contacts — and find half a dozen abandoned campfires. But in one measure of how well the public education effort is working, the Payson Ranger District didn’t find a single illegal campfire during the Memorial Day Weekend.
Every community in Rim Country should take Whispering Pines as a role model and form a similar partnership with the Forest Service to protect their communities from the single greatest threat to our future: Wildfire.
In the meantime, the residents of Pine and Strawberry have responded enthusiastically to a call from the Pine-Strawberry Fuel Reduction Committee. Despite the loss of state and federal grants that have helped homeowners thin overgrown lots to prevent a wildfire from sweeping into the community, residents have raised money for a thinning effort of their own. Reportedly record amounts of brush have made their way to the street for pickup. Hopefully, the county will cooperate in providing space in the landfills to dispose of this dangerous accumulation.
Meantime, Payson continues to lag behind when it comes to the vital task of preparing for wildfire. That’s curious, since Payson has traditionally taken the lead in addressing regional issues. We can only hope that the citizens’ committee set up under the direction of council member Fred Carpenter will soon report some innovative ways to turn Payson into a Firewise community — and that the whole council will take up the adoption of a wildlands-urban interface building code at scheduled study sessions in June.
In the meantime, Whispering Pines, Strawberry and Pine have all provided a heartening example of what citizens can do when they get involved.