Fuel reduction group busy in Pine-Strawberry

Payson Roundup (January 31, 2020) by Alexis Bechman

On a sunny Sunday in January, I joined Mike Brandt, president of Pine Strawberry Fuel Reduction, Inc. (PSFR), at the Pine Trailhead. We took a leisurely three-mile hike, made possible because Brandt, the PSFR board and volunteers are diligent in educating the community about fire protection and fuel reduction, creating partnerships and building trails.

“Maintaining trails creates a way residents and visitors can use the forest around our communities, creating an impact on the forest which also provides access to firefighters as well as a natural fire break,” Brandt said.

Started in 2004, Brandt led the way while still a Pine-Strawberry firefighter. He retired after 25 years, but continues as a driving force in PSFR. At a meeting with the board, members articulated the mission.

“To reduce the risk of a catastrophic fire in and around the Rim Country community of Pine-Strawberry,” said Brenda Darling, board secretary.

“We have a vested interest in this community not burning down,” added Brandt.

“Everything is interconnected,” said Elsa Steffanson, the technology guru for the group. “A healthy forest, a healthy watershed it all works together.”

“It’s a huge project,” said Brandt. “We take it one little piece at a time.”

Projects they have aplenty, but the board says community education is the No. 1 priority.

Over the last 100 years, the Forest Service has focused on stopping fires, leading to overgrown forests. These forests make it easy for a fire to spread, leading to catastrophic fires that can destroy communities and resources. PSFR is seeking a way out of the woods.

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