Rain Helps Firefighters Rein In 1,800-Acre Blaze On The Tonto

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Aided by scattered rain showers this week, crews from the U.S. Forest Service are continuing to monitor the slow progression of the North Fire in the Mazatzal Wilderness, and have nearly contained 50 percent of the Peak Fire burning south of Globe.

Tonto National Forest Public Information Officer Emily Garber said the North Fire had burned about 30 acres south of Payson as of Thursday afternoon.

"We're getting some good rain on the fire at night, and it really hasn't grown much in the last few days," she said.

Since the fire is burning on steep terrain in a remote location, the Forest Service will continue monitoring the fire, rather than fighting it, Garber said.

Payson District Ranger Ed Armenta said smaller fires continue to burn throughout northern Gila County.

"We're getting lightning strikes and fires every other day," Armenta said. "We're hoping the monsoons continue ... we need a little more rain to get us over this hump." In southern Gila County, the Peak Fire had burned 1,800 acres as of Thursday.

"Basically, we've spent the last several days trying to get out and do some burnouts on lines east of the fire," Garber said. "It's been so moist out there that we haven't been able to get out there and do the burning."

The southwest segment of the fire, however, has shrugged off the rain so far.

"We've had really spotty moisture on the south side, which hasn't been as helpful as we'd like," she said.

Officials hope for the best, she said, as weather forecasts predict continued thundershowers throughout Gila County for the next few days.

The increased monsoon activity in central Arizona has led to the lifting of fire restrictions throughout the Tonto National Forest.

Those fire restrictions have been in effect since June.

As of 8 a.m., forest visitors may once again smoke, use charcoal and wood-fueled fires and chain saws throughout the Tonto.

Peak Fire at a glance

Location: South of Pinal and Signal Peaks, eight miles south of Globe on the Tonto National Forest.

Cause: Lightning strike Sunday, July 30, 2000.

Estimated size: 1,800 acres.

Containment: 45 percent.

Timeline for total containment: Depends on the weather.

Fuel type: Mixed conifer and chaparral.

Threatened: Antenna sites, recreation sites, recreation cabins, Signal Peak Fire Lookout and Mexican spotted owl habitat.

Evacuation/closures: Recreation cabins remain evacuated. Road closures on Forest Roads 651 and 112.

Hazards: Extremely steep ground, heavy fuels, hot temperatures, lightning, rainstorms, and limited and difficult access. Firefighting resources: About 277 total personnel; about 150 crew personnel; seven engines; seven water-tenders; two dozers; three helicopters and one air attack.

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