Rim Fire Crews Help With Brins

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The Rim Country is doing its share to battle a fire that threatens to destroy some of the state's most pristine and scenic country.

Engines, trucks and crews from the Tonto National Forest Payson Ranger District and Payson, Pine-Strawberry and Diamond Star fire departments are in Oak Creek Canyon trying to slow the advance of the Brins Fire, which has burned to within the boundaries of Slide Rock State Park.

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Hiking trails, picnic areas, campgrounds and the popular Slide Rock State Park remain in the path of the Brins Fire.

The historic tourist attraction is located about 90 miles northwest of Payson.

Payson Ranger District Fire Prevention Officer Gary Roberts was a member of the team that was overseeing the fighting of the blaze from its inception June 18 until Tuesday when a Type I management team from the Great Basin took over.

Roberts said crews were able to use Highway 89A and backfires to keep the fire from crossing to the east side of Oak Creek Canyon but it has jumped containment lines on the northern edge and is continuing to burn in that direction.

Roberts predicts the fire will be contained but could burn for some time.

"After it is contained, the interior of the fire on top of Mount Wilson will burn until the monsoons arrive," he said.

The Payson Hotshots are among the ground crews battling the stubborn blaze that had grown to over 3,300 acres at press time. The rugged terrain has made it difficult for ground crews, including the Payson Hotshots, to get control of the fire.

Hotshot crews have been dropped off by helicopters at strategic points then withdrawn when flare-ups threatened their safety.

Roberts said the fire is not large by Dude and Rodeo-Chediski standards, but it is considered a serious threat because it is burning in an area where homes, businesses and lives are at risk.

"It's also unique because the terrain makes it very tough to get out to fight," he said.

Soon after the fire began, the Pine-Strawberry Fire Department sent an engine and three firefighters to the blaze. Payson has sent one engine and a four-person crew, as has Diamond Star.

Chris Lecher, a Diamond Star captain, also has been fighting the fire. All the Rim Country crews are involved in structure protection duties.

More than 600 people have been evacuated from their homes. In addition to the homes that are being threatened, hiking trails, picnic areas, campgrounds and the popular Slide Rock State Park remain in the fire's path.

Since the paving of the road through Oak Creek Canyon in 1938, Slide Rock has been a popular swimming hole in Arizona.

The area also has been a popular site for filming many Hollywood movies. Some filmed there include "Broken Arrow" (1950) with James Stewart, "Gun Fury" (1953) with Rock Hudson and "Angel and the Badman" (1946) with John Wayne. Today, Slide Rock is being used as a staging area to fight the fire.

The cause of the fire is believed to be a runaway campfire at a transient camp in the area.

The Forest Service is offering a reward for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of the person(s) responsible. Call (928) 527-3508.

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