Hot Shots Douse Half-Dozen Fires

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A fire burned 350 acres at the southern end of the Tonto National Forest Wednesday, and U.S. Forest Service Hot Shots doused six lightning-caused blazes in this neck of the woods.

Still, Payson celebrated one of its safest Independence Days ever.

"We had no fires or fire-related injuries within the town or the immediate area," Payson Fire Marshal Jack Babb said. "It looks like people enjoyed themselves and played it safe in terms of illegal fireworks."

Precautionary measures taken by the town's firefighters helped the town's fireworks display in Green Valley Park "come off without a hitch," Babb said.

"At about 4 p.m., our firefighters got out there to begin wetting down the area immediately west of the dam as a safety measure ... As it turned out, a lot of the drift (wind-blown embers from the fireworks) did come back to the west, so it's a good thing we took that precaution."

The sole problem that Babb's crew had to deal with, he said, was "a few cars that were blocking fire lanes. But those were quickly taken care of by the police department."

The July 4th holiday saw a half-dozen fires within the Payson Ranger District but not one was caused by human carelessness, said U.S. Forest Service Fire Prevention Officer Gary Roberts.

"In this district, which is just under a half million acres, there were six fires started by lightning pretty much in a concentrated area between Christopher Creek and Sharp Creek," Roberts said. "All were one-fourth of an acre or less, and they've all been put out.

"We also had one (lightning-caused tree) fire down toward the Little Green Valley area ... At the time, it was too dangerous to cut the tree down because it was in flames. Our crews are out there today (Thursday) taking care of that."

Things weren't quite so simple on the southern end of the Tonto forest, where the Creek 2 fire, which was first reported Monday, had by Thursday burned 350 acres within the Superstition Wilderness.

The fire, which started after lightning storms passed through the area near Tortilla Trailhead about six miles south of Apache Lake and 12 miles northeast of the town of Apache Junction began moving further west into the wilderness.

According to U.S. Forest Service Fire Information Officer Emily Garber, the blaze which did not threaten any structures was 50-percent contained by Thursday. It was expected to be fully contained this morning (Friday), as some 40 firefighters and one Hot Shot crew planned to concentrate their efforts entirely on hot spots.

About 100 firefighters, including four Hot Shot crews, battled the blaze along with three air tankers, two helicopters, lead planes and air attack. Rugged terrain made the suppression effort difficult. There are no predictions regarding fire containment at this time. Thirteen fires ignited at the southern end of the Tonto July 4, but none were caused by human carelessness, Garber said.

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