County Helped Fight Poco Fire

Water bladders for choppers helped keep the fire from spreading out of control


Firefighters expect 100 percent containment of the Poco Fire this weekend.

Firefighters expect 100 percent containment of the Poco Fire this weekend.

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The resources Gila County made available to help fight the 12,000-acre Poco Fire near Young made a big difference, U.S. Forest Service Incident Commander Matt Reidy told the board of supervisors this week.

“We have been so impressed with Gila County. It was prepared and invested and that was so critical in the suppression effort (against the Poco Fire),” Reidy said.

“It saved so much time and resources and limited our exposure to risk. County personnel were always present and always helpful. I don’t know how we could have got by without the county,” he said.

The county’s “investment” includes water bladders it had in place in the Young area to help firefighting helicopters quickly take on loads of water.

Tommie Martin, District One supervisor and chairman of the board of supervisors, said fire commanders initially told her they feared the fire would grow much larger — perhaps to 500,000 acres.

“The containment (at approximately 12,000 acres) would not have been possible without the water available from the bladders,” she said.

Martin said Reidy told her he thought the quick access to water kept the fire from growing until the fire management team took charge.

The county has spent the last few years installing water-holding bladders around the Rim Country in the event of a fire.

The Young area had three in place prior to the start of the Poco Fire, including one by the ranger station, another just outside of town and one near Haigler Creek. Normally the county sends water trucks to fill the bladders and they contain water throughout the year.

“That is easier than draining and collapsing them and then storing them, which we did at first,” Martin said.

In some cases, pumps can fill the bladders from a creek — as was the case with Haigler Creek.

“It’s done with Forest Service permission since it’s to fight a fire,” Martin said.

The county also hooked up the Cline Tank in Young to irrigation wells. The tank water then was used to fill the water trucks to keep the bladders full so the helicopters could draw water from them to fight the fire.

Other efforts

To facilitate the fight against the Poco Fire, Gila County declared a state of emergency in the area on June 19. That declaration allowed the county to provide resources to fight the fire and also make plans to cope with any post-fire flooding once the monsoons hit.

The county hopes the federal government will reimburse it for much of that cost.

Fire crews hope to have the fire 100 percent contained this weekend and has shifted from fighting the fire to gathering downed trees and limbs and feeding them into chippers to remove fuels.

The Central West Zone Interagency Type 3 Incident Management Team turned fire management back to the Tonto National Forest at 9 a.m., Friday, June 29. On Thursday, the Type 3 team maintained 90 fire personnel.

“We want to thank our firefighters and the communities we’re working to protect. We encourage the public to practice fire safety because the trees and shrubs are very dry and we remain in extreme fire danger,” says Andy Mandell, the incident commander trainee.

Mandell points out that two Type 1 firefighting crews and two engines will stay at the Pleasant Valley Ranger District along with miscellaneous fire personnel during the transition and due to the extreme fire danger.

Keep out of fire zone

As recreation increases in the area over the 4th of July, visitors and residents are warned to stay out of the Poco Fire zone due to the danger of smoldering logs and toppling trees.

For information, contact the Pleasant Valley Ranger District in Young at (928) 462-4300.

The county has hired a private contractor to clear away other debris to keep it from clogging up creeks, Martin said.

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