Despite two spectacular columns of smoke and an unfounded evacuation
rumor, firefighters had a productive day battling the Willow Fire
One column of smoke close to town was the result of a burnout set by
firefighters Thursday afternoon on the east side of the fire.
"It looked close to Payson and it was," Operations Section Chief Buck
Wickham said. "That was actually the closest place the fire comes to
town. It's about three miles outside of town, but not to be concerned.
That burnout is done to protect Payson from the fire."
The second column Thursday evening had a huge cap on it.
"It was actually over on the western side of the fire," Wickham said.
"The fire had been seated in there to make a run, and it chose to come
Firefighters started a back fire at the East Verde River to hold the run
"As that big run came up, it pulled that fire off the Verde River,"
The rumor, that Pine was about to be evacuated, apparently started
because firefighters hung flags in the area to direct firefighters to a
safety area in the unlikely event the fire reached that community.
"That is not a proposed evacuation route for the citizens," Wickham