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A coalition is working to thin the forest near Payson and reduce wildfire risk

Researchers say too much fuel in the forest can lead to bigger and hotter wildfires. So a coalition of government agencies and private interests are working to thin the forest near Payson.

With wildfires burning throughout the state, it’s easy to forget that fire is part of nature. Foresters say that one reason that today’s fires burn so hot is because of a fuel buildup in many of the state’s national forests.

A coalition of state and federal foresters, the town of Payson and Salt River Project is working to reduce fuel loads in East Clear Creek watershed.

“Fire suppression is expensive. It’s much cheaper to do these fuels reduction projects across the state, than provide dollars toward fire suppression,” said Tiffany Davila of the Arizona Department of Forestry and Fire Management.

SRP says the work will not only reduce wildfire risk, it will improve the watershed that supplies much of Payson’s drinking water.

Ron Dungan was a senior field correspondent at KJZZ from 2020 to 2024.