From brush fires to accidents, it was slow going on the roadways in Rim Country this weekend for area visitors eager to get out after officials lifted the closure order on the Tonto National Forest.
On Friday, about noon, a brush fire started seven miles south of Payson on State Route 87 at milepost 246, according to the Arizona Department of Transportation.
While crews initially kept one lane open, by 2:40 p.m., ADOT reported both northbound lanes were closed. About 45 minutes later, crews had a lane reopened, but the line of motorists stuck on the highway in 90-degree-plus weather now stretched back for eight miles.
By 4:30 p.m., ADOT reported both northbound lanes were back open, but the line of vehicles still stretched beyond the State Route 188 turnoff.
The Payson Fire Department sent an engine, water tender and crews to assist the Forest Service. Fire Chief David Staub said they contained the fire to about 1.6 acres.
Jeremy Plain, with the Forest Service, said it is unknown how the fire started. They sent four engines and their crews were on scene for four hours.
Only at 8 p.m. did ADOT report “the delays on State Route 87 northbound south of Payson have eased.”
Saturday, there was a crash at milepost 270 around 1:45 p.m. on Highway 87 just north of Pine. The crash blocked the left lane. The accident was cleared out around 4 p.m.
On Sunday, around 10:30 a.m., westbound State Route 260 was blocked near Granite Dells Road in Payson for a crash. Both lanes were back open just before 11 a.m., ADOT reported.
Finally, around midnight Sunday, ADOT reported State Route 288, south of Roosevelt Lake, was closed in both directions, between mileposts 263 and 264, for a brush fire. The roadway was back open by 3 a.m. Monday. The Roundup could not get further information on the size of that fire as of press time.