DUDLEYVILLE — With the Margo Fire 100% contained, Dudleyville residents are starting to tally up the damage and repair costs.

Former Pinal County Supervisor Pete Rios, who has a home in the area, stated in an email that he’s received a number of phone calls from residents asking for help and direction.

Dudleyville is a census-designated area with a population of about 1,000 people located off of State Route 77 in eastern Pinal County about 60 miles north of Tucson.

According to the Arizona Department of Forestry and Fire Management, the human-caused fire started the morning of April 8, burning through salt cedar, grass and brush in the San Pedro River bottom. The Pinal County Sheriff’s Office ordered the evacuation of about 200 people from the Dudleyville area the same day. The fire caused the department to close State Route 77, a main route into and out of the village, twice over the three days that firefighters were working the fire.

“For three days, residents of Dudleyville were scared, concerned and worried about their homes and their relatives,” Rios said. “When law enforcement shut down the SR 77 on (April 8) and people could not get back into the community, people were angry, especially when elderly loved ones were still in their Dudleyville homes.”

The American Red Cross and other nonprofit agencies were a great help in providing shelter, food, water, personal items and cookware to residents, he said.

Residents were allowed to return to their homes Saturday afternoon. Firefighters had the fire 100% contained by 5 p.m. on Monday. The fire burned 1,148 acres and 12 primary structures, according to the Department of Forestry.

The damage from the Margo Fire was worse than the 2017 Roach Fire, which burned in nearly the same area, according to Rios.

“Much worse, especially when you consider the number of structures/homes that burnt down,” he said.

The Roach Fire burned nearly 1,200 acres and 14 structures, five of which were homes, and cost more than $1 million in damages, according to PinalCentral stories from July and December of 2017. That fire was also determined to be human caused.

The charges against a Dudleyville man whose smoldering burn pile allegedly started the Roach Fire were dismissed in Pinal County Superior Court in December 2020.

Rios stated that the Margo Fire burned a total of 15 structures and that approximately 12 of them were homes. He said the home his family owns in Dudleyville is about 2 miles north of where the fire started and they were lucky because the fire moved south, away from the home.

Rios stated that entities like Salt River Project, Nature Conservancy and ASARCO mining company need to be more diligent about thinning the dried out brush and trees on the various parcels of land they own along the San Pedro River.

He believes that despite the damage, many residents will return to rebuild their homes, as they did after the Roach Fire.

“I hope that Pinal County will help by providing roll-off dumpsters and volunteer help from the county to assist these families in cleaning up,” Rios said. “They will need assistance to help them get back on their feet.”

The state was approved for a grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency on April 8 to help cover part of the cost of fighting the fire. The grant provides federal funding for up to 75% of eligible firefighting activities. There is no estimated cost for the fire at this time.

Officials have warned that the state has a potential for widespread, statewide fire activity by June. Last year’s fire season was one of the worst in nearly a decade, according to the Department of Forestry.

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Suzanne Adams-Ockrassa is a reporter covering the city of Casa Grande and the surrounding area, as well as Central Arizona College. She can be reached at sadams@pinalcentral.com.