89 Mesa Fire

State welders linked to Timberline fire

A Arizona State Game and Fish crew welding a water tank might have accidentally touched off a 550-acre wildfire in Timberline.

Calmer winds and lower temperatures have helped fire crews slow the spread of the 89 Mesa fire near the Wupatki Trails subdivision.

No homes have burned or have been evacuated, although residents who are sensitive to smoke have been advised to take precautions tonight as the smoke settles into Timberline.

Highway 89 was closed for a short time due to low visibility when the fire jumped the roadway, but it has since been reopened to traffic. A press release from the Game and Fish Department said a two-person crew was conducting welding work as part of maintenance on a wildlife water catchment at the time the fire occurred.

"At this point, we don’t know the details about what caused the fire, but it appears that department employees were involved," said Gary Hovatter, deputy director of the department.

Hovatter said the agency is conducting its own review of the crew’s actions and he pledged to "cooperate fully" with the Forest Service in determining the cause of the fire.

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