Coon Fire Losing Strength


Fewer smoke signals are wafting into the sky south of Payson. The message -- the Coon Creek Fire that has blackened 8,752 acres of Sierra Ancha Wilderness is losing strength.

The fire has run up against the sheer cliffs on the east side of the wilderness area, Donna Sager, Forest Service spokesperson, said.

Ground crews, which successfully held the blaze at Pueblo Canyon with help from air crews that have been dropping water and fire retardant, have kept the blaze 50-percent contained for the past five days.

The blaze is moving slowly downhill in remote and rugged places such as, Cold Springs Canyon, Moody Point and Devil's Chasm.

Firefighters began building a fire line in the Billy Lawrence Canyon area in an effort to connect to Forest Road 203 on the north side of the fire.

Firefighters must build an interior fire line that the fire can't jump before the fire can be declared fully contained.

Forest officials hope that the weather in the next few days, barring any wind gusts, will give crews an edge over the fire, Sager said. The meteorologist said the relative humidity looks good and temperatures are expected to drop, she said.

During the early stages of the fire, which started April 26, relative humidity was 3 to 5 percent. During the past few days, it has been at 20 to 30 percent.

"A big wetting rain would be nice," she said, "but it looks doubtful."

As the fire looses its grip, firefighters are being released from this fire and sent to New Mexico to battle the Cerro Grande Fire near Bandelier and the Jug Fire near Las Cruces.

That leaves a little more than 100 firefighters and 120 support people at the Coon Creek Fire site. In the air, there are four helicopters. On the ground seven-engine crews, two Hot Shot crews and two ground crews maintain the line and work toward containment.

Forest restrictions

Hikers, campers and sightseers are not allowed into the fire area between State Road 288 and Forest Road 203, including the Sierra Ancha Wilderness.

Beginning Friday, open campfires will be prohibited on all parts of the Tonto National Forest.

Roosevelt Lake and the Tonto National Monument, however, remain open.

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