Fire Information Officer Caught Tossing Lit Cigarette

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A public information officer for the Tonto National Forest was cited and released by a Payson police officer Saturday morning for allegedly tossing two lit cigarette butts out of her vehicle.

Paige Rocket, who has been a media liaison for the Forest Service on the Willow Fire, was cited for criminal littering, a misdemeanor offense.

A motorist was behind Rocket and called police when she saw her throw two lit cigarette butts out of her official vehicle while driving from the Houston Mesa Horse Camp to Longhorn Road.

According to the police department log, the reporting party described the vehicle as white, with the words U.S. Forest Service Public Information Officer on the side.

The witness said Rocket threw one cigarette out of her car at Highway 87 and Houston Mesa Road and a second in front of Chapman Auto Center.

Following the incident, Rocket left Payson.

Tonto Supervisor Karl Siderits told the Roundup that he cannot elaborate because it is a personnel issue.

"Paige is my public affairs officer and one of my key staff people," Siderits said.

"I was made aware of the situation and I took appropriate action."

"I am just profoundly embarrassed and sorry," Rocket said. "It was the most unthinking and careless thing I could have done."

Rocket said her ashtray, a cup with baking soda had fallen over on the floor.

"I was in a hurry and I violated the No. 1 safety rule that we are taught," Rocket said. "I virtually wasn't aware I did it."

Rocket said it would not be appropriate for her to return to Payson.

"I really feel I have brought shame and dishonor to myself and my agency," Rocket said. "I want to personally apologize to the people of Payson.

"If citizens worldwide were as caring and protective of their community as the citizens who reported me, this world would be a very different place."

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