The Forest Service is in a race with the clock to reach its prescribed burn quota before the fire season starts.

“To date we are a little behind schedule, but mainly due to the wet weather. We have not been able to burn as much as we would like, but we have been able to treat roughly 5,000 acres so far,” said Acting Payson District Ranger Jeremy Plain.

The federal government has mandated forest treatment goals.

“Our targets are a combination of burning and mechanical treatment. Our target for this year is roughly 22,000,” said Plain. “We have some burns planned for spring, but will just have to wait and see what the weather brings us.”

Last year’s drought put a damper on burning brush piles, but Plain said the Payson Ranger District fire crews have picked up the pace on prescribed burns of brush piles and broadcast burns during the dry periods between storms.

Recently, fire personnel burned brush piles in Beaver Valley.

Resident Bing Brown grabbed his camera to catch some photos of what he called a textbook prescribed burn of brush piles next to Beaver Valley homes a few weeks ago.

“The Forest Service did a wonderful job,” he said. “There wasn’t any smoke that blew into our community.”

Plain said with the right conditions and wind direction, the Forest Service can burn close to homes.

“That particular pile burn was close to the private boundary at Beaver Valley,” said Plain. “We typically try and wait one to two years after the piles have been cut/created before we burn them. We wait that long to make sure the piled material is cured.”

When first cut, wood has too much moisture to burn easily. Residents often complain about piles of brush out in the forest, but until the moisture in the brush dries out, the piles cannot be burned.

Once cured, it’s a waiting game for the right weather. Sometimes the wait can be years.

The Forest Service has about 39 million acres of forest mostly in the “interior West and Atlantic coastal states that are at high risk from catastrophic fires.”

Every year the Forest Service seeks to treat 1.5 million acres through prescribed burning and mechanical treatment done by hand crews and machination.

Ultimately, the Forest Service hopes to treat at least 3 million acres per year.

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