Heavy smoke from the Point Fire alarmed many residents, but Forest Service crews are using controlled fires to turn the lightning-caused fire into a chance to create a firebreak.
Serendipitous strikes of lightning have allowed the Forest Service to manage the subsequent fires along the Mogollon Rim and reduce fuel loads in previously worrisome sections.
The Point Fire, three miles northeast of Pine on Milk Ranch Point, reached 650 acres on Monday, up from 86 acres on Saturday. Crews deliberately burned 250 acres Monday to merge with the May 26 lightning sparked fire.
If weather permits, the fire will reach 1,350 acres on Tuesday before crews allow it to go out, said Payson Ranger District Fire Prevention Officer Gary Roberts.
Bug-killed trees previously populated the area.
“It’s been of concern to us for a long time,” Roberts said. A fire could have potentially rolled off the Rim and devastated Pine and Strawberry.
The fires have consumed dead debris on the forest floor, which decreases the threat of catastrophic wildfire and adds nutrients to the soil.
People in Payson, the Verde Valley, Pine and Strawberry will continue to see smoke from the blaze, the Forest Service said as four engines, two Hotshot crews, one fuels crew and two water tenders work the fire.
Lightning also caused the now 75-acre Tucker Fire, eight miles south of the Mogollon Rim/Blue Ridge Ranger Station. On Friday, the blaze covered roughly 40 acres.