Crews Let Wildfires Burn To Thin Forest

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Rim Country forest managers this week will continue to let half a dozen low-intensity fires burn across thousands of acres, taking advantage of the weather to thin out overgrown thickets.

Monsoon conditions that have soaked the ground have produced sharply different fire behavior than in the hot, windy, tinder-dry months of May and June that spawned the largest wildfire in state history.

In the past decade, the Forest Service has shifted from a strategy that relied on stamping out every fire that flared to letting

low-intensity ground fires burn when the conditions are right in a desperate effort to reduce tree densities that have increased more than 10-fold in the past century.

In some cases this week, fire crews will set backfires to burn up more brush to extend the benefits of the fire and to make sure it stays within certain boundaries.

Smoke from the Scout Fire remains visible from Payson and Pine. The 775-acre fire started on July 21 about six miles south of Clints Well near Forest Road 141H and Forest Road 320.

The well-behaved fire has ambled through the undergrowth of the ponderosa pine forest and fire crews don’t expect much increase in the total size.

Tonto National Forest crews near Young will this week take advantage of the wet forest conditions to start a series of controlled burns ultimately expected to expand to 5,700 acres, depending on the weather.

Fire crews in the next month will burn blocks of forested land on both sides of State Highway 288. The controlled burns will not only provide a wide firebreak along the road, but will lessen the chance that a discarded cigarette or abandoned campfire along the road will trigger a major wildfire.

Sandrock and Zeus Fires: The fires started on July 21 and July 28 and have currently grown to 2,500 acres. They should expand to 16,000 acres in the next few weeks as crews continue to set backfires along a three-mile corridor along Highway 260.

Smoke from the growing fire is noticeable along Highways 260 and 87, especially at night. Smoke regularly flows down Pine Canyon and Calf Pen Canyon and is visible in Pine, Strawberry and Fossil Creek.

The Forest Service is discouraging camping in the area and has closed roads in the area including 9366R, 604, 609, 616 from FR 149 out of Pivot Rock Canyon, 9385, 9387G, 9384A, 9386F, 9381, 6304 and FR149 from Hwy. 87 to FR144. Some 45 firefighters will ride herd on the fire for the next three weeks.

Diablo Fire: Sparked by lightning 19 miles north of Clints Well in pinyon-juniper near Long Lake, the fire stood at 15 acres on Monday.

International Fire: Started by lightning 11 miles southeast of Clints Well near McClintock Ridge along Mogollon Rim, the 25-acre fire is burning in an area surrounded by previous prescribed burns.

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