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Gila County officials prepare for potential flooding along fire burn scars

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Posted at 3:09 PM, Jun 28, 2021

Emergency management officials in Gila County are preparing for potential flooding along with the burn scars of the Telegraph Fire.

The fire has burned more than 180,000 acres and now poses a new risk of causing debris flow from potential monsoon weather this week.

RELATED: Monsoon storm chances really ramp up this week

A disaster relief organization has spent the past three days deployed to Gila County to help with mitigation measures ahead of any potential precipitation this week.

Team Rubicon, a relief group made up of veteran volunteers, spent three days working to fill more than 2,600 sandbags. The volunteers spent several days visiting flood zone neighborhoods in Mackey’s Camp, Bloody Tanks, Russell Gulch and other areas that could be at risk.

“We’re honored that Team Rubicon has our back,” said Carl Melford, Gila County’s Emergency Manager. “With 130,000 volunteers able to deploy throughout the United States and internationally, Team Rubicon stands ready to help when a community is facing its darkest hour -- they were in Winkelman helping residents clean up debris after the Margo Fire, and will be stationed here in Globe during June-July.”

Melford said there is a concern this week for the first potential rainfall since the Telegraph Fire with as little as half an inch of rain that could cause debris flow down the burn scars.

“The first heavy rain that a fire gets it doesn’t even look like water, it looks like [a] solid mudslide with debris, burned branches. It’s basically all the burned debris from the fire, and that first event is usually the most hazardous,” said Melford.

Along with sandbags, county officials have been working to prepare infrastructure by checking for debris in washes and asking homeowners with property to clear around them if they’re able to.

ReadyGila.com has a section to prepare for flash floods that includes having a plan.

Melford said his office is working on communication and outreach to the public in case there is a flash flood warning. Officials will work to let residents know they need to shelter in place or head to higher ground as many. The concern around the rural parts of Gila County is if there was an evacuation order it could put people in danger.

“Our thought process is an evacuation warning could potentially cause a traffic jam and put people in harm's way more so than if they would stay home or head to higher ground on their own properties,” said Melford.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), debris flow is water that can rush downhill with large amounts of ash, sand, silt, rocks and burned vegetation.

Officials will work to let residents know they need to shelter in place or head to higher ground as many homes are in low-lying areas.

For more about flash flooding on burn scars, click here.

To receive emergency notifications, Melford asks residents to sign up for emergency alert notifications by clicking here.

As for the team helping with post-fire debris and preparing for flooding, they have the ability to be back to help more.

Team Rubicon helps with all levels of disasters from debris management, emergency medicine, disaster mapping and more.

The group relies on donations, is always seeking veteran and first responder volunteers, you can find more information by clicking here.