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Setting fires on Mount Lemmon for safety

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Setting fires on Mount Lemmon for safety

By Simone Del Rosario. CREATED Jul 20, 2014

MT LEMMON, Ariz. (KGUN9-TV) - Hot and dry may be in the forecast, but Mount Lemmon is still benefitting from early July's storms. 

The monsoon relief was enough to have controlled burns on the mountain. The Mount Lemmon Fire Department set fire to big piles of brush cleared around people's homes, and the forest service also took advantage of the still-wet ground to set fires of its own. 

Eleven years ago, the Aspen Fire rippped through Mount Lemmon, destroying hundreds of homes. 

"We saw what happened and we want to be able to do our part to make sure it never happens again," Summerhaven resident Sean Magee said. 

Magee and Barbra Tunison have a lot of brush on their hands, and they're grateful to have somewhere to dump it. 

"Just to know that we can get everything cleaned up and taken care of for free -- it's really been a blessing," Tunison said. 

The Mount Lemmon Fire Department is taking the task off the hands of Summerhaven residents. All they have to do is clear the area around their house and drive the short distance to a lot behind the station. 

But it wasn't always this easy. 

"It's about a 4-hour round trip to go down to one of the landfills to take their trimmings," fire chief Randy Ogden said. 

"So fortunately, the fire department lets us bring the stuff here -- they burn it and it's all taken care of," Magee said. 

Not only is this the first year the fire department is able to offer this service, it's been a while since conditions have been safe enough to burn. 

"We have such dry conditions: The plants die, the trees die, we have such terrible fire conditions," Ogden said. 

But with the rain, "It's kind of like a big sigh of relief," Magee said. "When yo u're coming up the bottom of the hill and you see that moderate instead of very high fire danger, it's kind of nice."