A potentially dangerous ground-level brush and trash fire that scorched a 50-by-20-foot area of a hillside in Rumsey Park Wednesday afternoon "was started by humans, there's no doubt about that," says Payson Fire Chief John Ross.
Although the cause of the fire in still under investigation for "reckless burning," Ross said, "it appears that it was started by children playing with matches or lighters ... We won't get the report done for a few more days, but there was no lightning at that point or any other source of ignition."
While the fire never got closer than 500 feet to nearby Alpine Heights homes, says Payson Fire Marshal Jack Babb, "There was a concern. Had the fire been allowed to grow unchecked, and had the wind kicked up a little earlier than it did, it would have spread a lot more rapidly. If that had happened, we would have had some definite concerns about those homes built up against the forested area."
Some of those residents, Babb says, watered down their homes in case that worst-case scenario unfolded.
The fire was reported to the Payson Fire Department at 4 p.m. Six minutes later a crew of firefighters arrived in Engine 121 to find the blaze slowly climbing a hillside located between the softball fields and the water tanks on the north edge of the park.
"Upon arrival, the first unit on the scene immediately asked for additional resources to (gather) at Taylor Pool," Ross said. "Battalion 1 arrived and assumed command, and Engine 121 had all units respond north through Alpine Village."
The firefighters were able to encircle the fire and put it out within six minutes using hose lines and hand crews, Ross said.
A total of 13 firefighters and six vehicles were dispatched to the scene.
"There were some children seen running from the area," Babb said.
"Whether they were involved in the fire or not, we don't know. That's an investigative lead we need to follow up."