As hotshot crews battle wind-billowed fires on the Tonto National Forest, Payson firefighters stay busy with preventable human-caused fires.
On Tuesday afternoon a light, styrofoam cup, acting as an ashtray, was left unattended on the back porch of a home on East Cherry Street.
According to fire inspectors, the cup blew off the back porch and ignited dry vegetation next to the south Payson home.
Neighbors spotted smoke and called the fire department.
"If it hadn't been for alert neighbors, the house could have caught fire and spread to nearby homes," Battalion Chief Tom Barker said.
"It's pretty scary," said Judy Jordan, who lives across the street. "Even a small fire can turn into something tragic. Thank God the lady across the street was outside and saw the smoke before it got too big. I mean, it's so dry -- people just have to be really careful."
Payson firefighters also responded to a fire that ignited on East Miller Road after residents dumped hot ashes from a barbecue on the ground next to their home early Wednesday morning.
"People need to use common sense," said Payson Fire Marshal Mike Winter. "Whether it's cigarettes or hot ashes, they need to dispose of them properly. Even if you think it's cold, it can sit there and smolder for hours. When the wind plays up, it can take off and threaten the entire neighborhood."
Winters and Barker urged homeowners to clear their property of dry and dead vegetation and exercise extreme caution when handling cigarettes or anything that can ignite a wildfire.
"People just don't comprehend in their minds what could really happen," Jordan said. "They have to understand, that they can put our whole neighborhood in danger."