Arizona residents near Mescal, Telegraph fires hoping for best, officials plan for the worst

Telegraph Fire
Telegraph Fire
Posted at 3:26 PM, Jun 07, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-08 14:46:14-04

MIAMI-GLOBE, AZ — Superior, Miami and Globe are part of the Copper Corridor, known for mining, surrounding canyons, and popular parks.

"You either live in a canyon or you live on a hill," Bunney Kessler, who lives in Miami.

Kessler, like many people in the area, has lived there her whole life. She said they're not new to wildfires.

Telegraph and Mescal fires force evacuations in Arizona


"This is the first time that I've ever seen it this close to town, like ever," said Kessler.

FAST FACTS: Mescal Fire, Telegraph Fire scorching thousands of acres east of the Valley

Kessler has been trying to keep community members up to date on social media, recording videos from the bell tower at Buena Vista School. Half of Miami is under an evacuation order.

There are about 10,000 people in Miami and Globe.

"Right now the community is safe, no structures have been touched and we're working to evacuate people as needed," said Globe Mayor Al Gameros.

Some people south of Globe have also been told to leave. Gameros is worried about both the Telegraph and Mescal Fires, as flames have been creeping up the base of the Pinal Mountains.

"That's where our communications towers are set up at the top, plus we have cabins up above there," said Gameros.

They've also been dealing with multiple road closures, making it hard to get commodities in and leaving people wondering how bad the damage really is.

"To see this fire ranging from Picketpost by the Arboretum to around Oak Flat is devastating," said longtime Superior resident Anna Jeffrey.

Jeffrey is a member of the Apache Stronghold, a group fighting to protect Oak Flat from a mining company that plans to build a giant underground copper mine. Oak Flat is sacred to many Apaches and is also a popular campground.

Fire officials said Monday the Telegraph Fire crossed over to Devil's Canyon, another stunning and popular hiking destination.

"That's just when I broke down and cried," said Jeffrey. "It's gut-wrenching just not knowing, you have to just put yourself in a kind of numb state and take care of what you need to take care of. I keep looking up there from my yard and wanting to hike over it just to look."

For now, community members will try to stay safe and help each other out the best way they can.

"When superior gets in trouble like this, you really see how people care of each other and how we pull together and the camaraderie," said Jeffrey.


Telegraph Fire:

Size: 180,685 acres

Containment: 67% contained

Evacuations: GO: El Capitan (east and west), Dripping Springs, Wind Spirit, Hagen Ranch, Slash S Ranch, Government Springs. SET: Bellevue, Beverly Hills, Six Shooter, Icehouse. READY: Top-of-the-World, Oak Flat, Superior, Globe, Miami, Claypool, Central Heights, Pinto/Carlotta, Skill Center, Fairgrounds, Schultz Ranch, Battle Axe, Ray Mine, Riverside, Kearny, Winkleman and Hayden.


Mescal Fire:

Size: 72,250 acres (no longer considered an active fire)

Containment: 88% contained

Evacuations: GO: None. SET: Skill Center, Beverly Hills, T11 Ranch, Lower Peridot, South Peridot. READY: San Carlos, Coyote Flats/San Carlos High School area


The two fires are threatening communities and businesses.

PHOTOS: Telegraph and Mescal Fire burning in communities east of the Valley

“And what’s at stake here is life and death often times,” said Dolores Garcia.

Garcia, a veteran of the fire service and spokesperson for the Bureau of land Management says Arizona is well prepared to take on a potentially record-setting year for wildfires.

“We plan for the worst, but hope for the best, but we like to be prepared,” said Garcia.

It starts with manpower.

The state is able to unlock thousands of personnel through a variety of means. Officials look at agencies across the state and private contractors and they can also turn to neighboring states.

“All states are signatory to a mutual aid compact and so we can request neighboring resources from our neighboring states and employ those into our communities,” said former State Emergency Management Director Wendy Smith-Reeve.

Smith-Reeve says this happens nearly every year. In extreme circumstances, countries like Canada, Mexico and even Australia are known to send boots on the ground as well. Then there’s the expertise on the ground now.

“Each of these fires has their own incident meteorologist that are giving on-site readings for weather,” said Garcia.

A critical role during the peak of fire season. One that could save the lives of those on the front lines.

“This time of year, we deal with outflow wind from thunderstorms, those can be unpredictable and tricky, some of our steep and rugged terrain has its own weather too, some of those canyons have up-canyon winds, down-canyon winds, and has the day's shifts; the winds shift from up slope, to down slope,” said Garcia.

Fire behavior analysts take that data and plan out a safe and effective battle plan. Even the military can be called up if all else fails.

While the challenges of these fires are plentiful, so are the resources to fight back.

“We can’t do it any other way, so it is a collaborative effort, it's a team effort,” said Smith-Reeve.