Fire officials think a forest fire that threatened two homes in the Rim Trail subdivision northeast of Payson Sunday was sparked by smoldering fireplace ashes dumped in the forest.
"Whispering Pines Fire Department responded, and we went out to assist," Mesa del Caballo Fire Chief Frank Hansen said. "By the time we got out there, the fire was threatening two structures, and it came within 30 feet of one house."
The fire started behind homes in the Rim Trail area, on Forest Service land, Bob Ortlund, a fire management officer for the Forest Service, said.
"It looks like somebody dumped ashes from a fireplace," he said.
Fire crews, however, were able to bring the blaze under control in about an hour, Hansen said. By the time the fire was extinguished, it had burned little more than an acre of forest.
"It was an extraordinarily lucky situation," Hansen said. "Had this been in June, and the winds were blowing, this fire could have easily gotten away from us."
Fire crews from the Forest Service also helped fight the fire and stayed throughout the night to monitor the area.
Ortlund said Forest Service officials are still investigating the cause of the fire.
"We had an investigator out there Monday morning about 10 a.m. and the ashes were still hot," he said. "He's going to call some of the people who live in the area and see if anyone has any information."