February Fire 90 Percent Contained

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With the aid of a fizzling weather front, firefighters were able to contain the February Fire burning east of Pine and north of Payson.

Mother Nature turned the tide over the weekend when predicted strong winds up to 35 miles per hour failed to materialize. While the fire reached 4,243 acres Tuesday morning, it is now 90 percent contained. The fire was ignited eight days ago by an abandoned campfire.

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An air tanker drops fire retardant on the February Fire that has been burning since Monday, Feb. 6. More than 500 firefighters are fighting the blaze, caused by an abandoned campfire.

"Burnout operations have been successful and I am extremely pleased with the minimum impact to the environment," said John Philbin, incident commander of the Arizona Central

West Zone Incident Management Team. "We've been light on the land and that's a good feeling when you're dealing with the terrain we were challenged with."

The onset of a frontal passage on Tuesday and Wednesday may generate increased smoke from inside the burned area due to shifting winds, but fire lines are considered secure.

Mop-up will continue on Tuesday with land rehabilitation projects planned later in the week. Demobilization of fire personnel and equipment will also begin Tuesday as the incident winds down.

Firefighters battling the fire were not forgotten on Valentine's Day as Payson-area Girl Scout troops delivered nearly 1,800 individually-signed valentines to be distributed to firefighting personnel.

"The girls just want everyone to know how much the community appreciates their efforts and they wanted to do something special for them," troop leader Mandy Armstrong said.

At its peak on Monday, a total of 539 personnel were assigned to the fire, utilizing 22 engines, seven dozers, 19 water tenders, six helicopters and two air tankers.

The Control Road (FR 64) remains closed between the Geronimo Estates Roads (FR 458) and the Washington Park Road (FR 32). Residents may access their properties.

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

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