Forest Service: Poco Fire not a repeat of devastating Rodeo-Chediski Fire

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By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland

HEBER-OVERGAARD, Ariz. -- Even as the battle against the growing Poco Fire continues near Young, fire managers say it will not be a repeat of 2002's devastating Rodeo-Chediski Fire, the second largest fire in state history behind last summer's Wallow Fire.

That, naturally, was good news for residents, who got the latest information on the fire Wednesday evening at a community meeting in Heber-Overgaard.

"We'd just come back from Show Low yesterday and that smoke was coming up the canyon so bad you couldn't even hardly see or breathe it was so bad," Jerry Totty said.

For Totty and his neighbors, the Poco Fire has felt a little too close to home.

The situation was the same for Debi Surber and her son, Zachary.

"We had the window and the door open for the cold air and it felt like the fire was right outside the window," Surber said. "I opened the blinds just to look in the sky to see if you could see the color and I saw nothing so I shut both the doors."

Surber and Totty were among the many who went to Mogollon High School to hear what the Forest Service had to say about the Poco Fire and the danger it's posing.

What they heard was positive.

"Today was a good day for us," the spokesman said. "We have weather on our side; it's very similar for tomorrow. And hopefully our crews can get up there and really wrap this thing up."

At this point, the Poco Fire is about 15 percent contained. It's 3 miles away from the nearest homes and far from Heber-Overgaard. The energy companies say the fire's threat to some power lines should not affect energy in town.

The biggest relief came in learning that the Poco Fire is not a repeat of the Rodeo-Chediski Fire.

In 2002, the massive wildfire scorched this area, forcing evacuations and burning many homes.

"They said it's not even close enough at all for any evacuation so I'm pretty confident they're going to have it out before that ever happens," said Linda Totty, who lives near the fire.

The community meeting brought some peace of mind to many who are worried about this fast-moving fire.

At last check, the Poco Fire was at 11,011 acres.