Two Fires Pose Dual Mystery

Firefighters keep blazes near Tonto Creek camp contained, despite rising fire danger

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Two brush fires in the same spot just hours apart this weekend have raised the suspicions of investigators.

Officials believe children may have set the first fire, which started around 11 a.m. Sunday near the Tonto Creek Campground by the Horton Creek trailhead east of Payson.

However, police don’t know how a second fire at 3:45 p.m. started in the same location, since arriving crews found no one in the area. Firefighters held that blaze to three-quarters of an acre.

Forest Service fire management officer for Payson Don Nunley said when firefighters arrived the first time they found a small brush fire quickly spreading up a hill.

Christopher Kohl’s Fire Department firefighters contained that blaze to one-tenth of an acre.

Officers spoke with a family nearby and learned two children had been playing near a fire ring and likely started some pine needles on fire, which spread to the forest, Nunley said.

The children were given a stern warning. After several hours mopping up the fire, crews left the area.

Hours later, they were called back when another fire started in the same location.

When crews arrived this time, they found no one in the picnic area, Nunley said.

Four firefighters stopped the blaze at three-quarters of an acre.

The Forest Service had a fire investigator examine the scene, but he has yet to determine how the fire started, Nunley said.

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