Telegraph fire from Globe

A smoke plume from the Telegraph Fire is shown billowing near Globe.

FLORENCE — The Pinal County Board of Supervisors on June 9 declared a local emergency for the Telegraph Fire burning in northeast Pinal County and requested state and federal disaster relief.

The board also approved upcoming holiday fireworks displays at Toltec Elementary School and Saddlebrooke.

Supervisor Kevin Cavanaugh, R-Coolidge, said he concluded from Pinal County Emergency Management Director Chuck Kmet’s remarks that “generally, you think it’s not a good idea,” and voted no on the fireworks.

Approximately 1,500 firefighters are battling area wildfires. Kmet told the board that in his discussions with area fire districts and fire departments, “as of late because of everything going on and how dry it is, their preference is that we’re not just straight-up trying to start fires.” “A” Mountain in Tucson will catch fire following almost every July Fourth celebration, he said.

He said the surrounding areas of both Toltec and Saddlebrooke are fine for fireworks displays. “Beyond that is the bigger concern and where those things come down,” Kmet said. The fire departments that would respond as backup at remote locations would be responding from many minutes away, potentially allowing fires to spread. “My preference is not to have more fires in the county,” Kmet said.

As part of the board’s local emergency declaration for the Telegraph Fire, Vice Chairman Mike Goodman, R-San Tan Valley, asked if it could include the preventive measures necessary to contain the dangers in the aftermath of a wildfire.

Deputy County Attorney Kevin Costello said the main purpose of the resolution is to free up state and federal funds as quickly as possible, and the items Goodman mentioned are often included in emergency response. “Certainly we can come back with specific actions if there are certain things the board needs to be done,” Costello said.

Kmet told the board Wednesday the Telegraph Fire was 21% contained after burning some 81,000 acres. Roughly 800 personnel were fighting the fire from Superior to Globe and beyond, he said. The Top of the World community was evacuated Sunday, although a few residents opted to stay, and U.S. 60 and State Route 177 in that area remain closed.

Arizona Public Service Co. had to shut off power to 211 Top of the World customers because of damage to power poles and to protect firefighters from downed lines, Kmet said. The fire has also spread to Gila County, where five structures have been lost, but Kmet said firefighters are making progress and he’s hoping for improvement in the next couple of days.

Supervisor Jeff Serdy, R-Apache Junction, said residents can help themselves by removing the “easy fuel” combustible vegetation that contributes to a fire spreading. He said his Facebook page includes examples of how this should look.

He said that if residents know of a property that is a fire hazard, they may call Pinal County, which will send a letter to the address advising the residents they need to cut their brush. “Everybody, if you see something, say something,” Serdy said.

Kmet also reported a crew of 38 people, mostly volunteers with some county staff, began Monday removing the debris of 30 structures lost or damaged in the April wildfire in Dudleyville in eastern Pinal County.

In other business Wednesday, the board:

  • Gave retroactive approval for graduation night fireworks for San Tan Foothills, Poston Butte and Combs high schools.
  • Awarded a contract to low bidder DCS Contracting Inc. to perform roadway and drainage improvements on Meridian Road from Germann Road to State Route 24 for $8.9 million.
  • Approved an agreement with the state to install solar-powered LED stop signs and LED advanced warning signs at three intersections in Pinal County and three intersections on the Gila River Indian Community. The signs are covered 100% by federal funds with no local match required.

Serdy commented that these signs save lives in remote areas where drivers may be daydreaming and unprepared for a stop sign.

  • Approved an agreement with Maricopa County for use of the “Treasurer’s Remittance and Online Collection System” developed by Pinal County.

Pinal County Treasurer Michael McCord told the board that off-the-shelf software doesn’t necessarily correspond to the needs of the state and counties, but Pinal County created some that does. He said other counties are using it, too. Maricopa County will pay $150,000 for the right to use the software.

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Mark Cowling is the county reporter for PinalCentral and covers the town of Florence, San Tan Valley and the surrounding area. He can be reached at mcowling@pinalcentral.com.