March 20, 2012
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Race to improve fire buffer zones around Rim communities ahead of potentially deadly fire season
After a decade of strenuous effort, the Payson Ranger District has nearly completed a thinned buffer zone to reduce the threat of a devastating crown fire that could consume most major Rim Country communities. The Tonto National Forest since 2000 has spent $13 million to hand thin 30,000 acres and set controlled burns covering 53,000 acres to create buffer zones on the outskirts of Payson, Pine, Strawberry, Star Valley, Whispering Pines, East Verde Park and other communities. Fire districts and private donors have provided an extra $721,000, including $200,000 from Gila County, $50,000 from Payson and $18,000 from the Tonto Apache Tribe, $40,000 from The Rim Club and $100,000 from the East Verde Park Homeowners Association and fire district and $88,000 from the communities of Christopher Creek and Hunter Creek.