Forest Reopens, Willow Fire Contained

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With the Willow Fire now 100-percent contained and the monsoon season finally under way, the Payson Ranger District announced that all forest closures have been lifted except for the fire area itself.

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Payson Mayor Barbara Brewer accepts a color map depicting the day-by-day growth of the Willow Fire from John Philbin (left), incident commander for the Arizona Central West Zone Incident Management Team.

"The recent arrival of monsoons in Rim country has resulted in a dramatic drop in energy release components and a significant increase in relative humidity, precipitation, and fuel moisture content," Fire Prevention Officer Gary Roberts said. "All of these components combine to substantially diminish the threat of catastrophic wildfire."

Campfires are still prohibited throughout the district, as are charcoal burning devices, smoking, chain saws and other specified internal combustion equipment, and discharging a firearm. Gas-fueled stoves, lanterns and heating devices are allowed, as are campfires in provided campfire rings in Houston Mesa, Ponderosa, Upper Tonto Creek, Christopher Creek and Sharp Creek campgrounds.

The fire area that is still closed includes everything south of the East Verde River and everything west of Highway 87.

Meanwhile, the Willow Fire was declared 100-percent contained for the second time at 6 p.m. Saturday night by John Philbin's Arizona Central West Zone Type 2 Incident Management Team. The fire was previously pronounced contained a week ago by Jeff Whitney's Southwest Area Type 1 Incident Management Team, but Philbin's team felt it best to wait until hotshot crews got the upper hand in the rugged terrain around Mount Peeley and Mount Catherine.

Firefighters completed the construction of fire line around the entire perimeter of the fire Friday afternoon, but will continue to patrol for any hot spots. The remaining firefighters also are involved in rehabilitation of the areas disturbed by the fire suppression efforts.

All of the fire line that was cut during the course of the Willow Fire will be treated to prevent erosion, discourage vehicle travel and remove any remaining fire hazards.

In addition to ground rehabilitation treatments, the fire team will begin aerial seeding of fire lines and safety zones today. The purpose of the aerial seeding is to speed up the rehabilitation of the lines, as well as minimize the spread of noxious weeds.

The Willow Fire, which began June 24, reached 119,500 acres at containment. Smoke may be visible within the fire for a period of time.

Fox Fire

Aggressive aerial attack and flanking strategies have given firefighters the upper hand on the Fox Fire, located near Fox Gulch one mile outside Four Peaks Wilderness Area in the Tonto Basin Ranger District.

The lightning-caused fire, reported at 2:45 p.m. Saturday, had grown to an estimated 1,020 acres by Monday, according to Tonto National Forest Fire Information Officer Dave Killebrew.

"Since early (Monday) morning, they have upped their containment figure from 10 percent to 40 percent," Killebrew said. "They're making good progress on it."

Killebrew said no structures or residential areas are currently threatened. In fact, the fire is moving away from the nearest residential area, Tonto Basin, which is eight miles away.

"The nearest structures of any kind are at Cholla Campground at Roosevelt Lake," Killebrew said.

The fire is about six miles west of Highway 188 and six miles west of Cholla Campground.

"They think they've got the forward spread of the fire knocked down," Killebrew said. "They will have a total of 250 to 275 people on the fire today, including 12 20-person crews."

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