Wed, April 08

Forest Service: Cherry Fire contained

Photo by Les Stukenberg

JIM Minturn, who works for the Forest Service in the Tonto Basin, watches the progress of the Cherry burn last week.

Southwest Area Incident Management Team Incident Commander Dan Oltrogge reported that the fire was completely contained as of 6 p.m. Friday. Prescott National Forest assumed responsibility of the Cherry Fire at 6 p.m. Saturday.

Containment is defined as completion of a control line around a wildland fire, which can be reasonably expected to stop the spreading of the fire. Fire officials said it would not take long to completely extinguish the fire.

Donna Nemeth, with the Southwest Area Incident Management Team, said there were no reported injuries except for minor dehydration from firefighters.

"There were no reports of structure damage," Nemeth said. "The fire line was established, and we have two engines and one hot shot crew patroling for hot spots like smoldering tree stumps and fuel pockets."

Evacuees of the Federal Mine area were allowed to return to their homes on Friday.

She added that it is essential for the remaining fire crews to quench any remaining hotspots to keep embers from travelling across the fire line and igniting another flairup.

"The chaparral has a natural fire regiem that burns hot and fast," Nemeth said. "It is natural for it to burn periodically, the result is a rejuvenated ecosystem."

The Cherry Fire was a prescribed burn on the Prescott National Forest that broke free from the control of firefighters on Tuesday afternoon, forcing the evacuation of half-dozen homes in an isolated private pocket of land between Arizona 169 and Mingus Mountain called the Federal Mine subdivision, about 10 miles west of Camp Verde.

The wildfire burned about 1,000 acres of chaparral outside the 4,700-acre prescribed burn area.

"It took a lot of hard work to contain this fire, especially in Red Flag conditions, but we had a lot of people doing excellent work out there," Oltrogge said. "I commend their efforts."

Oltrogge expressed his appreciation to the businesses and residents of adjacent communities for the support and cooperation that they provided throughout the incident.

Many fire crews and equipment was released Friday and reassigned to other fires in Arizona and demobilization continues. The remaining two engines and the Hot Shot crew at the Cherry Fire scene continue mopping up hot-spots and will strengthen the fire line.

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