On behalf of the Southwest Area Incident Management Team, firefighting forces and support personnel, I would like to convey my sincere appreciation to the communities below the Mogollon Rim.
The Willow Fire was an extremely challenging and complex fire to suppress and support logistically. Your wonderful support during this difficult time was invaluable to the management of this historic event.
This is particularly true since the Willow Fire occurred around the 4th of July events in the Rim country. The decision, while responsible, to cancel the fireworks was of particular note. Payson and the surrounding communities demonstrated the true American spirit by going about your day-to-day lives and adjusting to the impact of not only the fire and smoke but also the impact of having nearly 1,000 additional inhabitants assigned to the incident in your community and on your roadways.
Your kindness and patience, along with donations of food, treats, cards, poems, letters of encouragement and warm thoughts have been appreciated by everyone participating in the Willow Fire suppression effort. The firefighters and fire management personnel were very appreciative of your warm hometown hospitality. The cards and letters from the children were especially touching.
Thank you for making us feel welcome and appreciated.
Jeff Whitney, Incident Commander, Southwest Area Incident Management Team