This was the first project The Pine Strawberry Fuels Reduction Committee took on. The Committee, consisting of Mike Brandt, Al Christianer, Mark Fumusa, Tom Hadley, Clark Helmkamp, Sherry Machemer, Andy Ooms, Christy Powers, Walt Smith, Toni Sorel, Arvid Thompson and David Ward, developed and spearheaded this project to fund maintenance of the fuel break on Forest Service land surrounding the communities of Pine and Strawberry. The project was urgent and the federal government did not have the funds to do it. The goal was to raise $50,000 through a mailing to the community. In a little over a week in excess of the $50,000.00 was raised entirely through community donations. Private donations eventually exceeded $80,000.00. An additional $50,000.00 was made available for this project by Gila County.
The fuel break is a 380 foot wide and 711 acre area which has been cleared of the low brush that provides highly volatile fuels for a wildland fire. The purpose of the fuel break is to slow, turn and to bring to the ground a raging crown fire. A healthy ecosystem has fewer trees and ladder fuels, thus reducing the fire intensity. The ultimate purpose of an effective fuel break is to prevent a major wildland fire from burning into Pine or Strawberry, potentially destroy many homes in the process.
Fuel breaks have proven to be successful in slowing and or turning fires at community boundaries. The fuel break not only provided these communities with the wildfire protection that it desperately needed, but it also was cited on a national level and called the best example of community/agency cooperation in the country. This is an example of the value of educating the public and building support through community spirit.