High Winds, Dry Brush Help Fuel Christopher-Kohl's First Forest Fire


Brisk winds created a problem for firefighters at Christopher Creek Friday when a half-acre blaze quickly grew to 3 1/2 acres and threatened several residences.

Christopher-Kohl's, Payson, Tonto Basin and Pleasant Valley fire departments, two Forest Service Hotshot crews, and an air tanker responded to the scene of "The Christopher Fire" on the north side of Highway 260 at the creek.

Christopher-Kohl's Fire Chief Ray Larsen said he received the report of the fire from the lookout tower at 1:40 p.m. and found a half-acre in flames when he arrived at the scene.

The blaze quickly grew to an acre, crossed the boundary of the Christopher-Kohl's Fire Department, and went on to Forest Service land.

"That fire ran fast in those winds and circled around," Larsen said Monday. "(The Forest Service) wasn't too far behind. They were there at 2:07. In those winds we had Friday, this thing grew to approximately 3 1/2 acres before everything was contained."

The Forest Service called in an air tanker from Phoenix that provided three separate water drops.

Larsen said up to 60 people were called in to battle the blaze and remained at the scene until 10 p.m. Friday. Forest Service crews returned on Saturday for mop-up.

Larsen said he had an idea of what may have caused the blaze. "But anything I would say would be pure speculation," he said.

Larsen said two other fires occurred Saturday at Mead Ranch, one from an abandoned campfire, and the other from people shooting a gun.

"It is dry out there, no doubt about it," Larsen said, adding that since the tower was manned last Sunday, "There's been five fires that I know, maybe more."

Larsen said the Christopher fire was the first forest fire his department has been called on this season.

On Saturday, Larsen said he found an abandoned campfire he had to put out. "There is a fine for abandoning those," he said. "It's quite dry -- it's drying out more. They're talking about more winds on Friday."

Larsen said people burning brush on their properties must have permits which are available from their local fire departments.

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