February Fire Burning 6 Miles East Of Pine

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The February Fire, burning six miles east of Pine and 12 miles north of Payson, was more than 100 acres and growing at press time.

"We are aggressively attacking this fire to limit its spread in the area," Tonto Fire Management Officer Jeff Borucki said. "This is the first serious fire on the Tonto this year, and we want to make sure it doesn't grow into a larger problem."

A total of six firefighter crews and two helicopters have been ordered and will be working to contain the fire, according to Vinnie Picard, deputy public affairs officer for the Tonto National Forest.

Payson Municipal Airport Manager Ted Anderson has talked to the helicopter crews using the airport.

"That's very steep terrain along there, too steep to send crews in, so more than likely they will use the helicopters and do bucket drops with water from around the Girl Scout camp," Anderson said.

Coconino National Forest firefighters are fighting the blaze at the top of the Mogollon Rim. Tonto National Forest firefighters hope to keep the fire north of the Highline Trail and use the boundaries of the Webber and Pack Rat fires to stop its spread to the east and the west.

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Landing against a backdrop of smoke-filled skies, a helitack firefighting team arrives in Payson Tuesday morning to battle the February Fire burning east of Pine.

"We're concerned because it's so dry, but if we get significant slop over south of the Highline then we'll be (more) concerned," Picard said. "As long as it's north of the Highline and boxed in by those other two previous fires, it's not really going to go anywhere.

"It might get big, but it's not going to threaten anything. It's not going to burn anybody's homes.

"There's a little bit of private property south of there, and of course Camp Geronimo, Washington Park over on the west, but at this point it doesn't look like there's going to be any significant threat to any of those areas."

The fire was first reported late Monday and though the cause is currently unknown, a lack of lightning in the area means the fire was probably human caused, according to Picard. An investigation will be conducted by Forest Service law enforcement officials.

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