Payson Containment Lines Holding

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Firefighters continue to gain ground on the Willow Fire, and fire officials believe Payson should be pronounced safe in the next few days. But some concerns remain.

The latest concern for the town is the slim possibility that the southeast corner of the fire could outflank the north-south containment line and turn north toward Payson. But at the Sunday morning media briefing, Operations Section Chief Roy Hall was optimistic.

"We had a good day yesterday, a really good day, and a good night," Hall said. "The fire's looking good and is well behaved, and that's a good thing. The way the burnout progressed to Barnhardt Trailhead, we're in really good shape.

"Day by day, we are mitigating the risk to Payson. Once we get (the southeast portion of the fire) tied in, I'd say we're a couple of days away."

The nearly completed containment line runs from the Doll Baby Ranch east and then turns south for several miles to the Barnhardt Trailhead.

Pine and Strawberry are at slightly more risk, but those communities are also getting safer with each passing day.

However, firefighters still have concerns about the fire's progression to the south, and hope to stop its progress before it reaches major APS power lines that are about six miles away. They also hope to delay burnout operations along Highway 87 until after holiday visitors to the Rim country have returned home.

"That's a big concern," Hall said. "That's a dangerous stretch of highway.
"If we do end up marching down to the power lines, we are going to have to do two things -- we are going to have to shut down the highway, and we will have to shut down the power lines."

A shutdown would last 2-3 days, Hall believes, but power to the Rim country would be uninterrupted.

The lightning-caused fire, which began June 24, stands at 69,500 acres and is now 10 percent contained. There are currently 934 firefighters and support personnel working the fire, which has so far cost $3,861,000.

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