Diesel Truck Ignites Blaze South Of Town

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A fire that burned 4 acres in Oxbow Estates this weekend gave firefighters all they could handle.

The Oxbow Fire swept south of Payson along the west side of Highway 87 at milepost 244 at about 6 p.m. Sunday.

Located about 1.5 miles south of Oxbow Estates, the fire reached 4 acres before it was contained. "It took us a couple of hours to get a handle on it," Gary Roberts, Payson Ranger District fire prevention officer, said. "We did have excellent mutual aid on it, with the Forest Service and Payson Helitack responding as well as the Payson Fire Department and units from Tonto Basin."

Roberts said the fire was caused by humans.

"What we suspect caused the fire was a faulty exhaust on a large diesel vehicle," he said.

Although the fire was so close to town, Roberts said the vegetation would have prevented its spreading to Payson.

"This time of year in a location like that I suppose you can always say there was a potential, and the fire did make a run uphill, but it would have ultimately gone to a ridge where it's piƱon and juniper and there's basically no grasses on the ground to carry it."

Considering the area's dry, hot conditions, Roberts felt the Rim country was fortunate last weekend.

"We had extreme fire conditions over the weekend and a lot of people up here and for the most part it went very well," he said. "We almost escaped unscathed.

"This is the really critical time of the year for us firewise in the Rim country. The last two weeks of June are always really the most dangerous time of the year."

Campfire and smoking restrictions are in effect throughout the entire Payson Ranger District. Under the restrictions, campfires and charcoal burning devices are banned, and smoking is only permitted within an enclosed vehicle or building. Campfires are only allowed in provided campfire rings in the following established campgrounds: Houston Mesa, Ponderosa, Upper Tonto, Christopher Creek, and Sharp Creek.

Operating chain saws, power saws, welding devices, vehicles or other internal combustion-driven devices without a spark arrester and discharging a firearm are also banned.

Many areas in the southern half of the Tonto National Forest are also restricted or completely closed. For more information, call the Payson Ranger District at (928) 474-7900, the Tonto National Forest at (602) 225-5200, or check online at www.fs.fed.us/r3/ tonto.

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