multi-agency taskforce

On June 24, members of the Tonto Rim Search and Rescue volunteer organization were briefed by Gila County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Dennis Newman on the new security check program for Pine and Strawberry residents.

Though residents were allowed to return to their homes over the weekend, as the Backbone Fire evacuation of Pine and Strawberry stretched into its second week, rumors of looting lit social media on fire.

To calm fears, a multi-agency group of first responders and volunteers joined together to man phones at the Pine-Strawberry Fire Department to perform security checks on homes.

Starting on June 23, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday volunteers from the Tonto Rim Search and Rescue, along with deputies from the Gila County Sheriff’s Office manned phones at the Pine Strawberry Fire Department.

“We will go out and water chickens or check on houses,” said Lt. Dennis Newman from GCSO.

The program helped to calm fears.

“TRSAR personnel have been checking residences in both Pine and Strawberry for any suspicious activities or unlocked or open doors or windows. If found, deputies are called to search and secure the home,” wrote members of TRSAR.

Normally, TRSAR spends most of its summer rescuing hikers on the Fossil Creek Trail from dehydration, twisted ankles and other medical emergencies. At least once a summer, someone drowns in Fossil Creek. Other rescues require rope and tackle or long searches in the wilderness on horseback or by off-road vehicle.

The outpouring of gratitude from the community members has touched the volunteers of TRSAR.

“It is with great honor ... that we can be called upon to support our neighbors in the communities of Pine and Strawberry,” wrote TRSAR members. “We have received so much gratitude from those homeowners we’ve encountered or talked via their home security systems. It fills our hearts with joy and it’s what we call our ‘paycheck.’”

In the event of another evacuation, security checks are on a first come, first served basis. Please call 928-476-4272 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday-Friday for help.

Contact the reporter at tmcquerrey@payson.com

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