Payson Ranger District fire specialists plan to conduct an aerial ignition of approximately 4,700 acres on the south side of Christopher Mountain, Saturday, March 5.
Residents and visitors can expect to see a significant column of smoke rise from Christopher Mountain and smell smoke during the one-day prescribed fire operation.
Smoke may linger and be present in the area until March 9.
During the day, smoke will move up and over the Mogollon Rim. Diurnal airflow in the evening will move residual smoke down Christopher Creek.
Smoke will affect Christopher Creek, Hunter Creek, Colcord Estates, Ponderosa Estates and other neighboring communities.
Significant moisture on the north side of Christopher Mountain, as well as lighter fuel types on its flanks, will buffer the prescribed fire.
During this prescribed fire operation, Forest Road 117 will be closed to the public as well as the 178 trail.
“One benefit of aerial ignition is that it allows us to limit exposure and risk to our firefighters in difficult and dangerous terrain,” said Gary Roberts, fire prevention officer. “Another benefit is that it allows us to methodically and efficiently treat a very large area with prescribed fire in less time.”
During aerial ignition, an aircraft rapidly drops fire-igniting ping-pong balls in a targeted area. The ping-pong balls contain potassium permanganate and are injected with ethylene glycol just before they are dropped. The mixture causes a chemical reaction resulting in fire ignition.
The purpose for the broadcast fire treatment is to reduce catastrophic wildfire danger by clearing heavy chaparral and brush in the area and to provide a fuel break in the event prevailing southwest winds should ever push a wildfire northeast toward communities in the area.
“Another objective for the broadcast fire treatment is to help restore historic savanna-like, grassy landscape that was more open and park-like,” Roberts said.
For information about prescribed fire and mechanical fuels reduction operations, call the Payson Ranger District at (928) 474-7900. Residents can also stay updated on forest prescribed fires at www.fs.usda.gov/Tonto. To report a wildland fire, call (866) 746-6516.