First Of Ten Wildfire Water Bladders Installed

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What looks like nothing more than a large tub of water, actually represents the difference between a raging wildfire that destroys acres and a couple of flames snuffed out before they can make headlines.

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This bladder is federal government surplus originally designed to hold fuel for helicopters. They will be used in Gila County to hold water for wildfire fighting efforts. This is the first of 10 that will be placed in an arc around Strawberry, Pine, Payson and Pleasant Valley.

The first of ten such bladders was installed Thursday in Pine, making Rim Country a safer place to live. The bladders are filled with water and strategically placed for easy access by firefighting helicopters.

A ribbon cutting ceremony to unveil the first of the bladders was held April 12 south of the Ponderosa Market in Pine.

Present were Congressman Rick Renzi, Gila County Supervisor Tommie Martin, Payson District Ranger Ed Armenta and representatives of the Gila County Sheriff's Office, the Pine-Strawberry Fire Department, Arizona State Land Department and Arizona Department of Transportation.

The bladders are federal government surplus originally designed to hold fuel for helicopters. Because they were meant to hold fuel, they are thicker and more durable than standard water bladders.

Martin believes the bladders will be a huge asset in that they will allow helicopters a faster turnaround time when hauling water to fires.

"With these early strike resources of strategically placed helicopter-available pots of water we can make a difference," Martin said. "We can make a little fire a non-fire every time, but if we can't do that initial strike, every fire becomes an event."

Each bladder holds about 6,000 gallons of water.

"The helicopters can fill and dump, fill and dump," Martin said.

The bladders, however, are not just for helicopters -- ground crews, county, town and fire districts can also use water from them in their fire fighting efforts.

The bladders are to be placed near sources of water, wells or springs, in an arc that covers Strawberry, Pine, Payson and Pleasant Valley.

Martin said they would mostly be placed on private land to curtail vandalism.

The Gila County Board of Supervisors approved the purchase of bladders -- at a cost of $27,000 -- during its March 21 meeting.

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