Firewise Phoenix Street talking about an annoying bush

Homeowner Ron Wright (left), discusses the special attention Payson homeowners need to pay to yearly Firewise maintenance. Kevin McCully, Payson’s fuels manager, explained that desert brush such as the oak brush at their feet, pop up every year. Wright and McCully discussed many things as part of the Firewise grant Wright received.

New Payson resident Ron Wright knows a thing or two about wildfires.

“Being from Wyoming, we Firewised our cabin,” he said.

When a wildfire started near their northern property, Wright overheard firefighters telling neighbors, “Sorry, we may not protect your property if you have not Firewised.”

Armed with this experience, Wright made it his priority to Firewise his home on Phoenix Street when he arrived in Payson. Already he has cleared the brush six feet from his home, but he still has another acre of thick forest to go.

So, when a Facebook post about a Firewise grant from the Payson Fire Department popped up on his feed, he applied, providing his address and lot number.

Kevin McCully, Payson’s fuels manager, then applied for a grant.

McCully came to Wright’s house in late September to start the second phase of the Firewise grant. The town recently received approval to fund the thinning of 80 parcels throughout town. Wright’s is one of them.

To make sure a homeowner receives grant money, McCully must reach out to each homeowner. At the initial meeting, McCully assesses the need and explains they will receive a reimbursement for work. To make sure the homeowner receives reimbursement, McCully must document the process from beginning to end.

Homeowners sign a contract with the fire department that they will find a contractor and pay for it up front. All receipts, invoices and any other paperwork related to the project is given to McCully.

McCully then takes those documents and submits them for reimbursement from the Arizona Department of Forestry and Fire Management, the entity managing the grant.

According to other grantees, it can take from 90 to 120 days to process a check, but that grant money could help the homeowner with thousands of dollars in costs.

What’s in an assessment?

After Ron and his wife Lesli signed the contract with McCully, the two went out onto Wright’s property to document the needs.

Near his front door, Wright stopped by a ponderosa pine tree. It’s just a few feet away from his roof.

“Is this tree a problem?” he asked McCully.

“Not as long as you remove brush from under it and trim the branches six feet above ground,” said McCully. “Your property doesn’t have to look like a moonscape.”

Behind his house, Wright has numerous manzanita bushes.

“Manzanita burns hot,” said McCully.

He suggested Wright clear branches from the ground, so they don’t “carry fine fuels,” and widen the space between bushes.

“I want them left to help with erosion control,” said McCully.

He suggested having 1.5 feet between the canopies of the bushes.

McCully then took a picture from each corner of Wright’s property.

“That way I have a reference point to take the after pictures,” he said.

Nearby, a neighbor called McCully before they started construction for a Firewise assessment.

McCully said cleaning up a lot before building simplifies the Firewise process.

Finding a contractor

On Wright’s property, one section of his property is choked with ladder fuels like oak and manzanita brush.

“The grant pays by the acre,” said McCully.

McCully supplied Wright with a list of contractors.

“Call and find one that works for you,” McCully said to Wright.

McCully has seen one bid come in at $17,000 per acre, but the steep topography of the lot drove the price.

The grant has a cap on what it will reimburse per acre, so McCully offers to help the homeowner understand bids to make sure it fits within the grant limits.

Whatever the homeowner decides, McCully offers to guide and help make sure they can afford the work.

After completing the work for the grant, McCully returns to document the result.

McCully reminds homeowners that yearly maintenance is required.

“You can’t just do it once and let it go,” said Ron.

For more information on Firewise or the grant, contact the Payson Fire Department at 928-474-5242.

Contact the reporter at mnelson@payson.com

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(1) comment

Dave Golembewski

The grant covers $2500 acre measuring your whole lot property. Sometimes it cost more than that to firewise it to standards but it’s a good start with the grant program . Now open up a free brush pit at the rodeo grounds this winter and the bids will go way down 🌳😊

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