Investigators Think Hunters Sparked 125-Acre Fire On Rim

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Forest officials have determined the cause of the forest fire burning north of Payson, which has scorched 130 acres of timber since Monday.

"It was started by an escaped campfire," District Ranger Ed Armenta said. "More than likely, it was started by a hunter's fire."

Armenta said the fire was originally thought to be burning entirely in the old Bray Creek fire area, which would make it easier to contain. Instead, it's burning just to the west of that old burn, just north of the Highline Trail at Bear Springs. More than 60 firefighters from various agencies are battling the blaze.

"We're expecting some westerly winds, which will be favorable for (controlling the fire with backfires)," he said Thursday.

Phyllis West, dispatcher for the Tonto National Forest, said as of Friday morning, the fire was 40-percent contained, and that officials are still hoping to contain the fire sometime Saturday. To date, the Forest Service has spent about $35,000 fighting the December Fire.

Anyone with information about the fire can call the Payson Ranger Station at 474-7900, the sheriff's department at 474-2208 or Payson police at 474-5177.

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