Pine Wilderness Fire Continues To Grow, Spewing Ash Into Payson

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Firefighters were able to stave off the Pine Mountain Wilderness Fire when it burned across the boundary of the wilderness area Sunday and threatened a ranch near Camp Verde.

But because the MT Ranch is the only private land holding in the vicinity, Prescott National Forest officials are just monitoring the fire with a three-person crew on site, spokesperson Devin Wanner said. Wanner said the Tonto National Forest called in several precautionary fire retardant airstrikes Sunday, but none were planned for Monday.

"Basically, we were able to use garden hoses from the ranch, so the fire is still not all that aggressive," Wanner said. "We're still trying to basically monitor the situation, but that's why the suppression activities were necessary."

By Monday, the fire had increased in size to more than 5,000 acres and some ash and debris had reached the Rim country, said Brenda Straw, customer service representative for the Payson Ranger District.

According to a press release issued Monday by the Prescott National Forest, lower humidity allowed the fire to grow significantly over the weekend.

"Although the overall acreage seems large, the areas of activity on the fire are confined to areas on the west side of the fire and the east side," the release said.

The fire began July 2 and grew to 450 acres by July 17. Prescott National Forest officials still hope it will burn itself out.

Trails in the Pine Mountain Wilderness are not closed, but forest officials are asking hikers to stay out of the area where there's a risk of falling debris and blocked trails. The 68G road from the Verde Rim to Childs is closed for public safety.

Closer to home, the Payson Ranger Station doesn't have any prescribed burns scheduled this week.

"We have some residual smoke from last week's Monacco burn, but no new activity," she said.

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