Rain Doesn't Delay Scheduled Control Burns

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The rain the Rim country received over the weekend amounted to little more than a drop in the bucket, but it was sufficient to delay planned fire restrictions for at least a week.

Rain along the Rim was over half an inch with nearly a quarter inch on some of the lower peaks, Tonto National Forest officials said. Payson received four-tenths of an inch of precipitation.

"We got enough rain to hold off restrictions for maybe another week, and the National Weather Service told me there's a chance of more precipitation later this week," Payson district ranger Ed Armenta said. "We were going to go into restrictions on the 11th, and if we don't get more precipitation we'll probably go into restrictions on the 18th."

Tim Bos, Tonto National Forest fire management officer, said weather forecasts, especially the winds, will be monitored closely.

"We will continually assess the possibility of fire restrictions as we get further into April," Bos said. "Our fire danger could be back up where it was in a matter of days."

The Tonto National Forest had 31 lightning fires from the weekend storm, but because of the accompanying moisture, all were less than two-tenths of an acre in size.

Meanwhile, the Forest Service announced two controlled burns Tuesday

morning at the town pits north of Payson. The two pits have served as free drop-off points where residents can take vegetation debris as part of the Payson Area Regional Project.

One pit, known as the Payson Pit, is located just north of town on the west side of Highway 87. The other, known as the Chase Creek Pit, is near Chase Creek by Whispering Pines off Houston Mesa Road.

The burns at both pits are expected to begin sometime between 9:30 a.m. and 10 a.m.

"We got just enough rain to allow us to burn in some of these controlled areas," Armenta said. "They are very secure, so we're not at all concerned about the fire escaping."

Payson Fire Marshall Jack Babb said the two pits are about three-quarters full and will be broken into smaller piles and ignited one at a time for even more control.

Babb also said the weekend precipitation has allowed the Payson Fire Department to begin issuing burn permits on a case-by-case basis, with each one subject to revocation should conditions change.

For more information about fire restrictions and fire information in general, call the U.S. Forest Service at 1-877-864-6985 toll-free or visit the Southwest Area Wildland Fire Operations website at www.fs.fed.us/r3/fire.

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