Now in its fourth year, the Pine-Strawberry community’s annual Firewise Day has grown into an event with just about everything: from fire safety demonstrations to snake training (both venomous and friendly for both humans and canines); a bear trap — even exploding hot dogs.
An event both free and freewheeling, sponsors include the Pine-Strawberry Fire Department and its fire truck, ambulance and brush truck on which kids can climb, and Arizona Department of Forestry with a prize wheel kids can spin to win, while learning about the surrounding Tonto National Forest, its history and future.
Sara Gerlach and Katie Calederon, the event committee co-chairs, describe an event that has grown into a unique and educational community draw, saying “kids will delight at seeing hawks and other real, live birds of prey brought by Fallen Feathers Wildlife Rehab volunteers; kids can get their faces painted — and see how Arizona Game & Fish wildlife managers trap bears, to release them somewhere safe deep in the woods. Parents can hear speakers starting at 11:30 with Fire Chief Gary Morris telling us about current moisture and fuel conditions in the surrounding forest, and his predictions for what we could face with the fire season ahead.”
• Stephen Mckelvey, Arizona Department of Forestry & Fire Management. will explain how to identify bark beetles — and treat areas infested with the damaging insects
• Gila County Sheriff’s Office’s Sgt. Dennis Newman presents the “Ready, Set, Go” emergency preparedness program — how to save your family in the event of a major fire, flood or other catastrophe. Sgt. Newman will share a safety briefing about the Everbridge emergency alert program (it’s free and online, download the app today); if time allows, he’ll advise how to avoid getting lost in the woods, explain resources Gila County emergency responders use to find those who are lost and how the DPS helicopter search and rescue works together.
• David Mikulak, an arborist with Natural Beauty Tree Works, visited the Paradise, Calif. community and homeowners after catastrophic wildfire there.
More events & activities
• Pine Strawberry Fuel Reduction trailer with information for all ages — Billy Bushwacker will entertain kids while adults check out the Rim Country 3D topographical map.
• Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) — an all-volunteer group integral to emergency response in the community, trained to handle emergency situations and assist police and fire teams.
• Tonto Amateur Radio Club, which is prepared for emergency situations in the event other communications fail.
• APS “Weenie Wagon” — an unforgettable demonstration of the power of electricity and danger of downed power lines — complete with exploding hot dogs (you don’t want to miss this one).
• Fallen Feathers living exhibit of “rehab” forest birds with education about their habitat.
• Phoenix Herpetological Society with a variety of snakes, teaching the difference between harmless snakes and venomous vipers.
• Arizona Game & Fish will demonstrate the bear trap they use to capture, move and release nuisance bears.
• Arizona Trail Association — learn what’s new and exciting with the Pine-Strawberry trail system, including a new interpretive center and ADA trail at the Pine Trailhead.
• Spider Monkey Arts face painting for kids of all ages and many more!
Food and fundraising raffles
Farm Bureau Financial Services — Duane and Lana Ridl are longtime supporters of Firewise Day and the Pine Strawberry Fuel Reduction effort; they generously donate to support the raffle, and graciously provide free pulled pork sandwiches, chips and a drink.
Raffle tickets are three for $5 and proceeds boost the Pine Strawberry Fuel Reduction Fund. Plan ahead, bring cash and buy a wad of raffle tickets — two of the top prizes include a Champion 3650 watt generator, or Poulan 18-inch chain saw. A separate raffle will award $500 worth of Firewise lot clearing to a lucky winner (tickets $5 each.)