Picture Fire Fully Contained

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The Picture Fire was officially 100-percent contained at 6 p.m. Thursday night and rehabilitation has already begun.

Crews are continuing line construction around the northern perimeter of the fire which is burning in ponderosa pine, juniper and chaparral about 24 miles southeast of Payson between Punkin Center and Young. Patrol and mop up of hotspots within the lines also will continue on all seven divisions.

Smoke may be visible for several days as unburned fuel in the interior of the fire continues to burn.

"There's a lot of interior areas that still need to burn," Payson Ranger District Fire Prevention Officer Gary Roberts said. "We've got everything anchored around it pretty much, and we're just letting that interior burn out."

Early rehab efforts are focused on disturbed areas such as dozer lines, hand lines and affected forest roads. Firefighters will ensure that all trash and directional markings are removed, level any berms used for suppression, and block vehicular access to dozer lines. Forest roads used by firefighter traffic will be repaired and graded while some stock tanks used for helicopter dip sites will be refilled.

Recreational sites, boating sites and roads in the Roosevelt Lake area remain open. However, the Cholla Campground is still being used for fire operations and remains closed to the public.

The Picture Fire, which began June 18, peaked at 12,665 acres, and was attacked by 1,035 firefighters and support personnel. Resources included 29 crews, nine helicopters, 14 engines, eight dozers and six water tenders. No structures were lost and no serious injuries were reported.

Demobilization of heavy equipment was initiated Wednesday. A number of crews were released from the Picture Fire Thursday to assist with other fire suppression efforts throughout the region.

Total fire suppression cost is estimated at $3.6 million, according to Roberts. The fire is believed to be human-caused, possibly starting from a campfire.

Dan Oltrogge, Incident Commander for the Southwest Area Incident Management Team, extended his appreciation to the local communities and cooperating agencies for the support they provided throughout the suppression operations.

"On behalf of the team, I want to extend our extreme gratitude to everyone who assisted us; many contributed to a successful endeavor," Oltrogge said.

Extreme fire danger

Extreme fire conditions are present throughout the Tonto National Forest, with little relief in sight.

"There are different fire preparedness levels, and nationally we are at level 2," Roberts said. "But for us in the Southwest we're at level 4 (out of 5) right now. That's why the Picture Fire took off on us like it did.

"The weather pattern we had been in with winds fanning the Picture Fire is moving off to the east, but conditions will continue warm and dry," Roberts said. "A group of meteorologists has confirmed that the monsoon is not expected to arrive until July 4 or later."

High pressure will continue to build over the western states, according to meteorologists.

"I think that's a good thing because that building high pressure is what draws the moisture up from the gulf to give us the monsoons," Roberts said.

Rim country restrictions

Campfire and smoking restrictions are in effect on all Forest Service lands managed by the Payson Ranger District.

The restrictions ban campfires, charcoal grills and stove fires, except in established Forest Service fee camp and picnic grounds where grills are provided. Liquid or gas stoves, lanterns and heaters that meet safety specifications, are allowed.

Smoking is allowed within an enclosed vehicle or building, a developed recreation site, or while stopped in an area with a three-foot radius and free of all flammable material down to the mineral soil.

Rim country closures

Forest closures around the communities of Pine and Strawberry remain in effect. The closed area is bounded roughly by the Tonto Natural Bridge State Park (which remains open) and the Mogollon Rim.

Only residents who live within the closure area and invited guests are allowed access.

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