'Fire Made Us Safer'

Promontory Fire reduced heavy fuels, serving same purpose as controlled burn

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After a precarious week filled with smoke, and flames burning in dangerous proximity to otherwise peaceful mountain communities, fire officials had the Promontory Fire 90 percent contained as of Monday afternoon.

Officials expect the fire to be completely contained by the end of today.

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An air tanker drops fire retardant on the eastern edge of the Promontory Fire.

Crews secured a perimeter around the fire Sunday.

Crews will continue to monitor the fire's behavior for the next several weeks, said Gary Roberts, fire prevention officer with the Payson Ranger District.

The fire has burned more than 4,040 acres since it first began around 4 p.m. May 13, possibly started by an abandoned campfire.

Although the exact cause of the fire is still speculation, officials said it was human-caused.

The fire incident management team calling the shots for the last week was expected to turn the fire back over to the Payson Ranger District today.

The fire has reached a place that is "manageable for the district," Roberts said.

On Monday, less than 600 personnel remained on the fire. That number was expected to decrease drastically within the next few days.

Crews from Colorado, New Mexico and elsewhere in Arizona have battled the Promontory Fire.

While residents of evacuated communities were permitted to return to their homes on Sunday and fire officials said that the danger to the communities has now been averted, residents can still expect to see smoke, while the interior of the fire continues to burn out.

Roberts said the continued burning of the "islands of fuel in the interior of the containment" may be expected for the next several weeks.

A safer place

Roberts said much of the fire burned at low intensity, resulting in a situation similar to a prescribed burn.

"The communities are going to be a lot safer," Roberts said. "The fire definitely reduced the heavy fuels in the area."

The added security the Promontory Fire may have created for residents of nearby communities comes at an especially active time in the current fire season.

Roberts said four lightning-caused fires, separate from the Promontory Fire, were extinguished Friday.

The largest of the four was the River Fire, which was contained at one acre.

Saturday saw three more lightning-caused fires in the district, all of which were contained within one acre by fire crews.

Bear Canyon and Woods Canyon Lakes remain closed until further notice. Forest closures surrounding the fire remain in place.

For more information about closures, the following Web sites are helpful: www.az211.gov; www.fs.fed.us/r3/asnf and www.ckfire.org.

Information regarding re-entry into the evacuated area may be obtained from the Gila County Sheriff's Office at (928) 474-2208.

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