The tiny community of East Verde Park, working with the support and encouragement of the U.S. Forest Service and Payson Fire Department completed a huge Firewise project in May, filling 22 dumpsters with brush cut from thickets surrounding the community.

Surrounded by national forest, the community enlisted the advice of the experts to prioritize which areas presented the highest risk of wildfire. Together, we identified around five acres of overgrown forest that needed treatment.

Firewise EVP, and the local fire board coordinated with local landscapers to thin vegetation by 65 percent to 80 percent. The community’s fire board paid the $4,000 cost of the landscapers to cut the brush.

The fire board’s money comes from a small property tax levy. Most of the money goes to pay the Payson Fire Department about $60,000 annually to provide fire protection. The fire board also spends about $10,000 annually to pick up and haul away brush cut by property owners and left at the curb.

The Firewise committee then undertook to raise some $5,000 to pick up the brush cut by the contractors. The brush pickup also included with brush homeowners thinned throughout the 180-home community. The committee relied on donations and the volunteer efforts of 20 residents to pile up the brush cut by the contractor for pickup.

In addition, homeowner and Boy Scout leader Mike Law offered the services of Boy Scout Troop 182 of San Tan Valley, making this an Eagle Scout Community Service project. Troop 132 supplied 32 eager young Scouts and their leaders. The Eagle Scout candidate took charge of his fellow Scouts and divided up the labor.

Anyone who criticizes young people these days really needs to see these youths at work. Seldom have I seen a more enthusiastic, energetic, happy, and respectful group.

All told, participants dragged tons of brush to the side of the road for pickup. Our volunteers filled 22 huge dumpsters with brush for removal.

We’re all proud of what we have accomplished. People have seen the smoke in the air and are determined to do whatever is needed to prevent a major fire from happening here.

To the people of Payson we say, “look at us!”

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