Whispering Pines Fire District recently added a new piece of equipment to its wildland firefighting toolbox — a small, self-contained firefighting skid mounted in the bed of their Polaris Ranger.
With the extremely dry winter and facing a potentially active wildfire season, Chief Ron Sattelmaier purchased the skid to enhance the district’s wildland fire tools.
“This apparatus allows firefighters to access otherwise inaccessible areas around the fire district as well as the Tonto National Forest that surrounds all the communities of the district,” he said.
Since Sattelmaier became chief in 2010, he has worked closely with the Payson Ranger District.
“This partnership began as a community involvement initiative by many property owners in the fire district following the Waterwheel Fire in August 2009,” Sattelmaier said. “This citizens group met with the ranger of the Payson district not only to voice their concerns, but to offer a unique level of volunteer support and cooperation.”
Out of these meetings grew the Whispering Pines Fire District (WPFD) Fire Patrol Program.
Operated by members of the WPFD and community volunteers with support from the Payson Ranger District, the program works to increase public education and fire prevention programs.
Every weekend, from the beginning of May through the end of September, fire personnel and volunteers travel the roadways and trails around the district’s communities, stopping at every occupied campsite and talking with campers.
They distribute materials on proper campfire location, extinguishing a campfire, local wildlife, weather, emergency services and trash disposal.
The WPFD Auxiliary also provides a large dumpster at fire station 71 in Whispering Pines during the summer months where campers can throw their trash.
The auxiliary funds this by holding fund-raisers as well as a monthly pancake breakfast on the second Saturday of the month between April and October.
“The most important aspects of the Fire Patrol Program is the public educational opportunities; the distribution of garbage bags to campers, provided by the Forest Service; and checking campsites for and extinguishing abandoned or improperly extinguished campfires,” he said. Over the past four camping seasons, the WPFD Fire Patrol Program has visited 6,290 campsites, extinguished 216 illegal or abandoned campfires, expending 1,740 man-hours and driving 7,450 miles.
“With the addition of the new tools for this program the district will be able to continue the program on into the future and deliver these services more efficiently and more cost effectively,” he said.