Forest Service To Burn 800 Acres Near Gibson Ranch

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A major prescribed burn will produce plenty of smoke in the Payson area, but it should be over in two days.

About 800 acres of forest will be treated in the Gibson Ranch-Round Valley area, possibly as soon as this week, Gary Roberts, Payson Ranger District fire prevention officer, said.

"It will be high intensity for a brief period of time, and it will put up significant columns of smoke," Roberts said. "The smoke will be visible pretty much throughout Payson, but it's only going to last like a day or two, dependent on the weather conditions."

Some smoke may even settle in parts of Payson and surrounding areas.

"Basically, we're going to have smoke kind of settling, hanging around here in the late afternoon," he said, "but we'll have very little in the evening."

The burn, which will be ignited by helicopter, is a continuation of prescribed burns conducted in the area last year, including 270 acres that were treated in October.

"The focus of our wildfire mitigation is based south of town because we know that it's more likely that's where a big start would come from," Roberts said.

Although weather conditions look promising next week, the burn will be postponed if they're not.

"It's the same set of variables," Roberts said. "The wind speed and direction has to be right, the fuel moisture content. All those variables have to be just right or we don't do it.

"So many times we're not able to accomplish what we want to because there is some sort of weather variable that's out and we don't go. When it's right, we have to move quickly."

A dry winter so far has the U.S. Forest Service concerned about the upcoming summer. The short term forecast calls for a warming trend over the next week and little chance for precipitation.

"What we really need is snow," Roberts said. "If the precipitation doesn't happen, we need to start the (public) education process even earlier this year."

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