Payson residents got an early whiff of what could be a nasty fire season when smoke filtered into their homes Monday afternoon from a prescribed burn that briefly raged out of control at Rumsey Park.
The blaze occurred about 3 p.m. when a slash pile fire, aided by a stiff breeze, jumped to an unburned pile and then got away from firefighters in North Rumsey Park and headed up Water Tank Hill toward McLane Road. Dense smoke filled the air and .6 acres were consumed before the fire was contained about 3:30 p.m.
"As part of the defensible space project at Rumsey Park we were burning some of the piles of brush. We put a line around each pile and put some class A foam around to keep them from spreading," Payson Fire Chief Marty de Masi said.
"The guys who were taking care of the project went to get some more water in the fire truck. While they were doing that they looked up the hill and apparently an ember from one of the piles went over to one of the other piles and the fire ran up the hill."
A first alarm was dispatched, bringing everybody in the department to the scene.
"We wanted to attack very aggressively, because we didn't want to burn anything we hadn't planned on," de Masi said.
"We controlled it pretty quickly, but it did run all the way to the top of the hill.
"There was no damage to the water tank."
The good news, according to de Masi, was that the defensible space created on the west side of the park "worked excellent."
"We didn't have any fire spread to that side," he said.
"Defensive space is what people need to have, and they need to get with it if they haven't yet," according to the fire chief.
De Masi called it "an unplanned example of how bad things are."