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Forest Service blamed in part for Telegraph Fire

Telegraph Fire
Posted at 5:36 PM, Sep 13, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-13 20:36:04-04

PHOENIX — State Representative David Cook believes The US Forest Service is responsible for tens of millions of dollars in damages when it battled the Telegraph Fire this summer near Globe.

Officials say the fire destroyed more than 180,000 acres of Arizona desert grass, brush, and mesquite.

Cook believes the federal government should help pay for the damage which to date, it's not planning to do.

“When I was up there, there was nothing left by a chimney,” said Brenda Blaine.

Blaine’s family cabin of 45 years burned to the ground; a lifetime of memories gone. The Blaine's cabin was among 54 homes, cabins, and other structures destroyed.

As it turns out it wasn't just the Telegraph Fire that caused the damage, a decision by the Forest Service may have contributed as well.

“They agreed it was the back burner that was left unattended that set it off,” Blaine said.

In a letter to the Chief of the U.S. Forest Service Vicki Christiansen, Cook called the decision to ignite the backfire, which also destroyed his cabin, borderline incompetent. "The wildfire was not advancing," Cooke wrote.

“As far as reaching out to me to say is there anything we can do, these are your options, I haven't had any contact with the Forest Service,” Blaine said.

The Forest Service took Blaine to see the damage to her property. She has not been allowed to go back.

Insurance adjustors and county tax officials haven’t been given access either so they can’t do their work. Blaine also pays $1,300 annually to the Forest Service for a land lease.

Representative Cook sent a letter to Agriculture Secretary Thomas Vilsack asking him to help ranchers and residents harmed by the Forest Service’s decision to set the backfires.

Cook says he is still waiting for a response.