Fire Plan Calls for Thinning Trees in Arizona Forest

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) -- A new wildfire plan calls for thinning and burning higher-density stands of ponderosa pines and smaller vegetation spread across thousands of acres in the Kaibab National Forest.

The plan is primarily a blueprint for what could happen if the state or federal governments were to award funds under the federal Healthy Forests Restoration Act to the plan's drafters, which include the city of Williams, several fire districts and the State Land Department. The proposal reaches across 250,000 acres of mostly public lands.

The total price tag is $200 million, an amount well above what any single community is likely to receive under the healthy forests act. But such a plan is a prerequisite before any town receives funds for forest management.

``We wanted to have this plan in place so that we can apply for funding,'' said Jackie Denk, fire information officer for the Williams and Tusayan Ranger Districts of the Kaibab National Forest.

High-density forest and grasslands close to towns would be the first and most-intensively thinned, according to the proposal.

Trees with diameters of 9 to 16 inches would be the primary targets, according to the plan, with a general goal of leaving 25 to 100 larger-diameter trees per acre and eliminating much of the smaller vegetation that aids fast-spreading treetop, or ``crown,'' fires.

The proposal is now up for community review and will be presented at public meetings over the next several days.