Fire Update: February Fire Continues Southwest Advance


Posted 5:30 p.m.
The February Fire, raging on the Tonto and Coconino forests six miles east of Pine, has grown to 1200 acres and has jumped the Highline Trail.

"It was kind of active last night," Jean Gilbertson, Mogollon Rim Ranger District information officer, said on Wednesday. "Even up on top (of the Mogollon Rim) there was spotting."


Firefighters had hoped to contain the fire within an area bounded by the Mogollon Rim Road to the north, the Highline Trail to the south and the burned out areas from two older fires, the Webber to the west and the Pack Rat to the east. A Type II Incident Management Team will take over fire suppression operations at 6 p.m. today (Wednesday).

The fire, which is burning in juniper and ponderosa pine forest in the rugged terrain along the Mogollon Rim, is currently advancing to the southwest.

Northeast winds

"Today, the northeast winds are causing a downslope push along the canyons, which is forcing the fire direction toward the southwest," Gilbertson said. Winds today are expected to reach 10 miles per hour with gusts to 20.

The Winds are helping to hold the east flank of the fire in place. Communities along the East Verde River are not immediately threatened, but officials are concerned about Bray Creek Ranch and Camp Geronimo.

"Fire managers have stationed structural protection engines and crews at Bray Creek Ranch and have ordered additional structural protection for Camp Geronimo Boy Scout Camp, located two miles west of the fire," Paige Rockett, Tonto National Forest public information officer, said.

Mike Webb, a Valley resident who owns a cabin in Rim Trail, is concerned.

"I understand it's going south, so hopefully they'll get it under control," he said. "I just hope and pray that the wind dies down."

Suppression resources

A total of 170 personnel including five type-2 hand crews, nine engines and three helicopters are fighting the blaze. A lead plane and two heavy air tankers from Arkansas and Missoula, Montana have been ordered and are enroute.

Road and trail closures are in effect for the Mogollon Rim Road, Forest Road 147 from its intersection with Highway 87 to Forest Road 300, and Forest Road 300 from its intersection with Highway 87 and including access to Milk Ranch Point.

The Tonto National Forest has closed the area around the fire from the Mogollon Rim on the north, Pine on the west, the Control Road on the south, and the East Verde River on the east. For further closure and fire information, see the Tonto National Forest website --

Air quality

Arizond Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) Director Steve Owens announced that air quality monitoring equipment is being deployed near Payson, Pine and Strawberry to monitor ambient air quality around the February Fire.

"We are monitoring air quality to keep track of any significant impact from the smoke and (we will) notify the public immediately if it poses a risk to area residents," Owens said. "We want to make sure that we take every precaution to protect area residents from any potential health effects from the smoke."

ADEQ's air quality monitoring equipment will collect and assess data for particulate matter, a major air pollutant found in wildfire smoke.

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