Picture Fire Now At 12,000 Acres

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After growing exponentially Friday and Saturday, the Picture Fire was more subdued Sunday and Monday, leading fire officials to predict containment by 6 p.m. Thursday.

The fire -- which grew from 2,000 acres Friday to 7,000 Saturday and 11,000 Sunday --s burning in ponderosa pine, juniper and chaparral about 24 miles southeast of Payson between Punkin Center and Young. As of today (Tuesday), it has reached 12,286 acres and is seven miles from Pleasant Valley.

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It's becoming an increasingly familiar sight in the Rim country -- a once pristine forest landscape ravaged by fire. This devastation was caused by the 12,000-acre Picture Fire, which is still burning southeast of Payson between Pleasant Valley and Punkin Center.

The Southwest Area Type I Incident Management Team led by Dan Oltrogge took over firefighting duties from a Type II team Monday. A total of 998 personnel are currently assigned to the fire, along with the Arizona National Guard 2nd Battalion, 180th Field Artillery deployed over the weekend by Gov. Janet Napolitano to assist with transportation.

Resources committed to the fire as of Monday included 14 engines, seven watertenders, eight dozers, 11 helicopters and three air tankers.

To meet the challenges of difficult terrain and limited road access, three remote or "spike" camps have been established close to the fire's perimeter. The camps are at Buzzard Roost Mesa near Red Rock Spring, and in Young.

The fire began Wednesday near Picture Mountain. Strong winds Friday caused the fire to make a 2.5-mile run. The fire remained active over the weekend, but by Sunday its head had slowed substantially and a line on the west side was holding.

Efforts are currently focused on new line construction on the north and east sides of the fire and strengthening existing lines on the south and west sides. Winds of 25-30 mph Monday could lead to increased fire behavior.

Officials estimate the fire is 60-percent contained, but windy conditions, high temperatures and low humidity continue to make firefighting difficult and hazardous. Crews have another six miles of fire line to build for complete containment, and hope to have that completed Thursday, according to Diane Williams, public information officer for the Bureau of Land Management.

The only road closure is Forest Road 609 between highways 71 and 288. The Cholla Campground and boat ramp at Roosevelt Lake are also closed to the public while the area is being used for the fire camp.

Two ranches in the area have been evacuated as a precaution and a strategic plan is being developed to protect the community of Young. To date, no structures have been lost and no serious injuries have occurred.

The fire is believed to be human-caused, possibly starting from a campfire.

Payson Ranger District

Despite windy, dry, hot conditions, no fires were reported in the Payson Ranger District last weekend.

"That is terrific, and hopefully indicates public awareness is increasing," Payson Ranger District Fire Prevention Officer Gary Roberts said. "I do know that information saturation makes a big difference."

Aspen Fire

Unlike the Picture Fire, the Aspen Fire continues to have its way on Mount Lemmon near Tucson.

The fire has reached 11,400 acres in size and is moving to the north at a rate of two miles per day.

While the community of Oracle has been declared safe, more than 900 firefighters continue to battle the blaze, which is only 5-percent contained.

The University of Arizona's Mount Lemmon Observatory complex has been successfully defended, but the community of Summerhaven has lost about 250 homes.

Other Arizona fires

Besides the Picture and Aspen fires, eight other fires are burning in Arizona:

  • Thomas Fire, 10,618 acres in eastern Arizona.
  • Lizard Fire, 5,270 acres near Flagstaff.
  • Mormon Fire, 2,600 acres near Flagstaff.
  • Ash Fire, 1,000 acres near Sierra Vista.
  • Cherry Fire, 926 acres near Prescott.
  • Picacho Fire, 925 acres near Picacho Peak.
  • Helen II Fire, 640 acres near Tucson.
  • Powell Fire, 610 acres near the Grand Canyon.

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