February Firefighters Maintain Wind Watch

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Posted 4:30 p.m.
Firefighters reinforced the line around the February Fire and conducted several burn-outs Friday, but "red-flag" weather changes could work against them today (Saturday).

The National Weather Service is forecasting a dry, cold frontal system will move into Arizona today, producing strong, sustained northeasterly winds of 20-25 miles per hour, with gusts to 35 miles per hour near the Mogollon Rim.

If that happens, "all bets are off," according to Tony Sciacca, assistant incident commander for the Arizona Central West Zone Incident Management Team.

Sciacca, whose team was brought in earlier this week to take over fire
suppression efforts, is optimistic otherwise.
"Within the next 3-5 days we'll have this thing wrapped up with the weather staying status quo," he said.

While Camp Geronimo and Geronimo Estates are still in harm's way,
firefighters felt they made significant progress Friday, according to
Arizona Central West Team Public Information Officer Rick Hartigan.

"West winds helped with black lining operations and pushed the fire back onto itself," he said.

The weather will determine how soon that progress continues.

"Based on current weather forecasts, firefighters plan to conduct holding
operations today," Hartigan said. "If winds are more moderate than predicted, black lining and burn-outs may continue."

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As of this post, Control Road (FR 64) remains closed between the Geronimo Estates Road (FR 458) and the Washington Park Road (FR 32). Local residents will have access to their properties.

Firefighters still hope to keep the fire within current lines -- north of Control Road 64, east of Forest Road 440, and west of Forest Road 32.

"Planning continues for aerial ignition of the interior of the fire on
Sunday or Monday," Hartigan said. "The intent is to quickly burn the
underbrush with a low-intensity fire.
"This action will generate significant amounts of smoke, but it will all be
within the lines."

The fire, which was caused by an abandoned campfire, has grown to 2,475 acres but is now 30 percent contained. It is burning 10 miles north of Payson and six miles east of Pine in rough, broken, steep terrain.

Currently, 401 personnel are engaged in suppression efforts, utilizing 19 engines, 8 dozers, 10 water tenders, six helicopters, and two air tankers.

The Control Road (FR 64) remains closed between the Geronimo Estates Road (FR 458) and the Washington Park Road (FR 32). Local residents will have access to their properties.

To protect those traveling and working along the Control Road, the speed limit is 20 mph.

For further closure and fire information, see the Tonto National Forest
website, www.fs.fed.us/r3/tonto.

Related link, including fire progression map
Arizona Central West Zone Incident Management Team

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