The Rim Country, which includes the area underneath the Mogollon Rim from Pine & Strawberry through Payson to Christopher Creek, is situated within the largest stand of beautiful Ponderosa Pine trees in the world. It is clear that within the beauty of this forest lies the possibility of a major disaster, in the form of uncontrollable forest fires. Pine has the distinction of being rated as one of the top ten areas in the country for the potential of catastrophic wildfire, due to specific geological effects in Pine Creek Canyon.
This danger has grown enormously in recent years for the entire Rim Country. Tree density has changed from 3-10 trees per acre in 1900 to, in many cases, over 1000 per acre today. Many of the largest wildfires in Arizona’s history have impacted this area, including the Willow (119,500 acres), the Cave Creek Complex (248,310 acres), and the Edge Complex (71,624 acres). The Dude Fire only burned 28,480 acres, but it resulted in the deaths of 6 firefighters, proving that even relatively small fires in the area pose a great risk to inhabitants and to those firefighters trying to keep them safe. Each year more than 150 wildfires are reported in the Rim Country from lightning strikes or human carelessness, each one capable of economic devastation and loss of life and property.
Our ability to live safely in this fire environment depends greatly on pre-fire activities taken by residents to protect lives and property. Pine Strawberry Fuel Reduction, Inc. has a history of active participation in wildfire prevention programs and activities. Prior to its formation in 2004, there were very few wildfire mitigation efforts being made in this small community, or the area as a whole. At that time the local advice was to pack your favorite belonging beside your front door or in your car during fire season to ensure that you had them with you if you were required to evacuate during a catastrophic wildfire.
The Pine Strawberry Fuel Reduction Committee was formed in 2004 to function as an oversight committee for fuel reduction efforts in the community. The committee was not formally recognized until they were introduced as partners on SFA 5-1 50/50 grant in March of 2005. The intent was for the committee to become the voice of the community and to help conceive new projects and innovations that would move Pine Strawberry to the forefront within the state, if not the nation, as a community that was willing to work together in making our area a safer place to live. Since that time this committee has been a contributing partner on all the fuels reduction grants obtained by the Pine Strawberry Fire Department.
Prior to 2005 there were few fuel reduction efforts in this community. At that point the local advice was to pack your favorite belonging beside your front door or in your car during fire season to ensure that you had them with you if you were required to evacuate during a catastrophic wildfire. It was during the Willow Fire in 2004 that a structure protection team came into this community and after an assessment gave Pine Strawberry a 20% survival rate if catastrophic wildfire were to enter into this community. Since that time great strides have been made, due in no small part to the oversight committee that was initially formed back in 2004
The Pine Strawberry Fuel Reduction Committee gained national attention in 2006 by spearheading a fund drive in the private sector to fund maintenance of the fuel break (a cleared area of forest) on Forest Service land surrounding the community. This project was imperative due to forest fires burning nearby, but the federal government did not have the available funds. The project not only provided this community with the wildfire protection that it desperately needed at that time, but it also was cited at the time as the best example of community/agency cooperation in the country. The Committee was Incorporated as Pine/Strawberry Fuel Reduction, Inc. in 2007 as a 501-c-3 nonprofit community organization.
Pine/Strawberry Fuel Reduction, Inc. is a completely volunteer, nonprofit community organization and is dependent entirely upon private donations and grants for its operation. The relative cost of funding fire prevention programs and activities is certainly small in comparison with all that we stand to lose here in the Rim Country.
Projects undertaken by P/SFR include reseeding the fuel break with native grasses in order to facilitate a natural burning cycle. The construction of a small diameter wood Ramada at the Pine Community Center, as a demonstration project, is intended to show a practical application for the forest products that surround us. Installing of Firewise signs along main ingress and egress routes in town and numerous other wildfire education and mitigation projects have been undertaken. The building of a Firewise Trailer, a mobile wildfire education classroom, was have been accomplished by P/SFR through community and agency support and cooperation.
P/SFR also participated in the development of the initial brush pick-up program. Designed so that the average property owners could FireWise their property and not have to make many trips to the landfill, this program ended in 2016.