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Arizona fire chief found safe following wilderness solo hike

(Pine-Strawberry Fire Photo; Screenshot)

PHOENIX – A search ended Wednesday for an Arizona fire chief who was safely located after going missing while hiking alone in the wilderness about 90 miles northeast of Phoenix.

Gary Morris, 73, who leads the Pine-Strawberry Fire District, made contact with authorities at about 3 p.m., spokeswoman Stacy Figueroa said in a Facebook post. Figueroa said Morris had sustained no injuries.

The Gila County Sheriff’s Office said in an email Wednesday that Morris was picked up by an AZDPS Ranger helicopter and was transported to the Payson Airport.

Morris, who was described as an experienced hiker, left Friday. His route was expected to take him 51 miles over four days, a department spokeswoman said in an online post Tuesday.

Morris planned to take the Arizona Trail from Sunflower to Doll Baby Ranch in the Matazal Wilderness.

Gila County Sheriff J. Adam Shepherd said his office was called Tuesday around 9:30 a.m. to report Morris overdue.

Tonto Rim Search Rescue’s team, of which Morris is a member, was sent in, along with a helicopter from the Arizona Department of Public Safety.

The Matazal Wilderness stretches more than 252,500 acres across the Tonto and Coconino national forests.

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Jim Cross and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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