Pack Rat Forest Fire Scorches 170 Acres


The fire burning on the Mogollon Rim near Kehl Springs Campground now dubbed the Pack Rat Fire has grown to 170 acres in size.

Seven crews totaling about 195 firefighters are battling the blaze, which is about eight miles east of Pine. They are employing four engines, two dozers, three water tenders, two skidders, one helicopter and one air attack aircraft.

Two more Hot Shot crews were expected Monday afternoon and an additional helicopter has been ordered.

Terrain that is steep, rocky and inaccessible is hampering suppression efforts, but afternoon and evening thunderstorm activity has aided in decreasing the growth potential of the fire and diminishing the intensity and frequency of the fire runs occurring in the steep canyons and chutes. The fire has been 15 percent contained.

The sloped flanks of the fire, over the edge of the Mogollon Rim, continue to pose the most difficulty in effective ground attack, according to an incident fact sheet released Monday by the Coconino and Tonto national forests. The east and west flanks are so rocky and steep that laying handline is hazardous.

Kehl Springs Campground is closed, as is the western-most section of the Rim Road (Forest Road 300). Though not currently in danger, private property at Washington Park, Camp Geronimo and Shadow Rim Camp are sites of concern and will be watched for future protection, according to a press release issued Sunday night by the Coconino National Forest.

The fire is burning on the border of the Coconino and Tonto national forests.

While forest officials are hoping that monsoon activity forecast for this week brings enough precipitation to be beneficial, rain is not always a blessing, Jim Payne, public affairs officer for the Tonto National Forest said.

Although it slows the fire down, it also hampers firefighting efforts.

"Right now with this high humidity and everything and the rain we've gotten on it, we really can't have a clean burnout," Payne said. "If we try to burn off the vegetation, it really won't burn like it should to consolidate those lines. So it's going to be problematic how long this thing is going to take. We need to get a lot of rain to put this thing out, but that's probably not going to happen."

Besides seven lightning-caused fires above the Rim, all contained, Payne said three additional fires in the Payson area have been contained.

"Two of them were lightning caused and one of them was human caused, but they were all fairly small and they're all fine," he said. The human-caused fire was up at Shoofly in that area where kids go at night. They started a log on fire."

In addition, several lightning fires are burning in the Flagstaff area, including the 35-acre Ready Fire about 10 miles southwest of Flagstaff near the rim of Sycamore Canyon.

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