North Fire Smokes As It Burns Itself Out


Payson residents looking to the southwest Wednesday noticed a huge pillar of smoke rising from the north peak in the Mazatzal Wilderness area. Officials from the U.S. Forest Service said that plume was a sign that the North Fire may be burning itself out.

"Basically, it crept down through some pine there, finally got at the base of North Peak in one of those canyons, then went up to the top or close to the top of the canyon," Bob Ortlund, Payson Ranger Distric fire management officer said. "Most of the fire has burned itself out in a lot of natural barriers, real rocky, bluffy areas and places without a lot of vegetation."

Ortlund said the North Fire is considered a low priority wildfire, largely due to the district's lack of resources and firefighters who have been sent to fight fires in Montana and Idaho.

"The North Fire poses no threat to private property or human life as it moves through patchy fuels," Payson District Ranger Ed Armenta said. "The fire is behaving predictably ..."

"Our proprieties are to really make sure we're staffing and catching the fires in the inhabited areas, areas where fires might threaten private land," he said.

Ortlund said the North fire has actually had a positive effect on that area of the wilderness.

"It's burning underneath most of the pines ... it's not scorching them or torching them out," he said. "It's actually going to help reduce the fuels in there. It hasn't been burning real hot most of the smoke showing was mainly because there was so much debris on the ground."

Sierra Ancha fire

A fire north of Roosevelt Lake also kept firefighters busy Wednesday, burning an area of the Sierra Ancha mountains that Ortlund said the Forest Service didn't want burned.

"That's burning about 20 acres in heavy timber and we're fighting that one," he said. "It looks like we'll have that one contained at 20 acres by the end of (Thursday)."

With a forecast of increasing moisture over the weekend from Hurricane Beryl, Ortlund said he hopes many of the fires will be doused by Monday.

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