Crews Now Mopping Up Poco Fire Near Young

Forest Service begins pulling crews off the fire line with 65 percent containment


Firefighting helicopters staged at the Payson Airport while battling the 12,000-acre Poco Fire, which didn’t grow over the weekend.

Firefighting helicopters staged at the Payson Airport while battling the 12,000-acre Poco Fire, which didn’t grow over the weekend. Photo by Dennis Fendler. |

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Crews continued to labor over the weekend to contain and start mopping up the 11,950-acre Poco Fire that started on June 14 from human causes about six miles northeast of Young.

Crews had the fire 65 percent contained on Monday, with fire lines holding over the weekend. The fire essentially trapped itself by burning through the heavy brush and ponderosa pine forest up against the Bull Fire, which scorched the area farther to the north earlier this spring.

Crews got a break as the buildup of moisture and the faint start of monsoon conditions boosted humidity to 21 percent and cooled the temperature down into the 70s and 80s.

“I am very pleased with the work that our team accomplished on the Poco Fire and want to assure communities that the incoming team will continue to patrol the Poco Fire and be available for new starts,” said Incident Commander Matt Reidy.

The fire continues to burn and flare up inside the fire lines, but firefighters now say the fire has a “low” potential for growth. On Monday, 380 firefighters continued to maintain the fire lines — that’s only about half of the peak firefighting force deployed a week ago. Another 150 firefighters were slated to leave on Monday.

Forest Road 512 to Young remained closed on Monday as fire trucks patrolled the perimeter. The danger of falling trees, rolling rocks and smoldering stumps will likely prompt the Forest Service to leave in place a closure area for some time after fire crews leave.

For updates, residents can call the Pleasant Valley Ranger District (928-462-4300) or check the Forest Service Web site at (www.inciweb.org/incident/article/2911/14428/).

At its peak, some 768 firefighters battled the blaze. Five firefighters suffered injuries, including one Apache firefighter whose leg was broken by a falling tree.

Major fires continue to burn in Colorado and New Mexico, including several fires ranked as the largest in the history of those states.

The 83,000-acre High Park Fire near Fort Collins Colo. has consumed 248 homes and has “extreme” growth potential, despite the best efforts of 2,000 firefighters. The Forest Service has already spent about $29 million fighting that lightning-caused blaze. Other active fires in Colorado include the 22,000-acre Little Sand Fire in the San Juan National Forest, the 8,300-acre Weber Forest nearby and the 3,446-acre Waldo Canyon Fire in the Pike National Forest.

In New Mexico, the 297,845-acre Whitewater-Baldy Complex fire in New Mexico close to the Arizona border is now 87 percent contained, with little danger of additional spread.

The fire front was mercifully quiet in Arizona on Monday.

The 17,446-acre Sunflower Fire continues to smolder, but is considered 80 percent contained. Only six firefighters remain assigned to the fire to make sure that an unexpected spark or flare up doesn’t manage to spread to unburned areas.

The Tonto National Forest on Monday issued a closure order for Sycamore Creek, mostly out of fear that the onset of monsoon rains could trigger flooding or debris flows rushing down Sycamore Creek out of the burn areas.

The 257 Fire also continues to smolder on 2,850 acres four miles southeast of Superior, but it is 100 percent contained and not expected to grow.

The 480-acre Grand Fire eight miles east of Tusayan is also 100 percent contained, although many big downed logs and stumps continue to smolder within the burn area.

Meanwhile, the Forest Service has sent a Burned Area Emergency Response Team into the 16,240-acre area of the Gladiator Fire, which for a time forced the evacuation of Crown King and several other small settlements. The team will try to figure out how to keep monsoon mud slides in the burned area from doing more damage.

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