The Arizona Public Works Association has awarded Gila County its top honor for the work it did for fire safety.
Gila County's efforts on behalf of fire safety started in 2006 with the purchase of water dip tanks, "pumpkin" tanks and military water bladders. The tanks and bladders were placed at strategic sites in the Tonto National Forest for helicopter and emergency fire truck usage.
"Gila County's innovative program addresses the need for new approaches to wildfire protection as a result of the long drought," stated the award documents.
At the beginning of the 2006 fire season, Gila County was rated one of the most, if not the most, at-risk areas for "catastrophic wildfire" within the western United States. Gila County experienced more than 100 fire starts in the 2006 fire season, 18 of which were classified as having "catastrophic potential" by the United States Forest Service.
Due to the innovative achievements of this program only one fire burned 150 acres, while the remaining fire-starts were held at eight acres or less.
The dip sites have made Gila County Rim Country profoundly more fire-proof.
To further mitigate the risk of catastrophic fires, the county is purchasing additional bladders.
Gila County District One Supervisor Tommie Martin said the bladders would be put in place by May 1, if the ground is dry enough to support their weight when they are filled. She said five new bladders have been purchased and three of the old ones were lost when seams failed due to age and ultraviolet damage.
Four of the new bladders will be placed throughout the Rim Country, while one will go out near Globe.