Sitgreaves' Sand Fire Shouldn't Affect Payson

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Payson Hot Shots are among those fighting the Sand Fire burning eight miles northwest of Chevlon Canyon Lake in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest.

The blaze, which began April 22, was about 50 percent contained late Monday afternoon, but high winds of up to 30 mph caused it to spot up one-half mile ahead of itself.

Bob Dyson, of the Sitgreaves National Forest, estimates the fire has burned about 1,200 acres of ponderosa pine, pinyon pine and juniper.

Dyson also said firefighting efforts have been hampered by rough canyon terrain and long, steep slopes. "It's not suitable for safe firefighting."

Evidence indicates fire human-caused

Fire investigators suspect the blaze is human caused.

"We have physical evidence, but other than that we can't say anything because it's an active investigation," Dyson said.

Smoke from the fire will probably not affect residents of Payson, Pine and Strawberry.

"Not unless the winds shift," Dyson said. "The smoke is blowing east of Winslow."

In addition to the Payson Hot Shots, units from Fort Apache and the Winslow unit of the Arizona Department of Corrections were the first to fight the fire. Yesterday, three additional Type 1 hand crews, four engines, one dozer and three water tenders joined the fight. The Black Mesa Ranger District in Overgaard is the incident command post. No travel restrictions have been imposed.

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