Telegraph Fire came dangerously close to destroying Boyce Thompson Arboretum

Boyce Thompson Arboretum
Posted at 6:39 PM, Jun 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-09 14:31:30-04

Red slurry marks outline the edges of the Boyce Thompson Arboretum property, as the Telegraph Fire came perilously close to destroying decades worth of history.

The Telegraph Fire on Monday came racing north towards US 60 near Superior, right in the vicinity of the Boyce Thompson Arboretum, which is nearly 100 years old and home to thousands of plant species.

"Oh my God," said Executive Director Lynne Nemeth. "We were horrified."

RELATED: Latest on Telegraph and Mescal fires burning east of Valley

Nemeth told ABC15 she was on a plane coming back from vacation as she received word the fire was inching toward the arboretum.

"What was going through my head was we have to get the staff and any visitors out of there, we have to protect them first," Nemeth said. "Then I was thinking, oh my God, all the people that work here, what's going to happen to them if we go up in smoke."

Nemeth said the fire did breach the arboretum property, but burned in a creek area and did not damage any of the valuable plants.

Nemeth said she made the call to evacuate staff from the arboretum.

"The issue was going to be that if we went up so would the Town of Superior," she said. "Because it's a straight shot from here down Route 60. That was a really big concern."

Fortunately, fire crews were able to stop further spread of the fire in that area, saving the arboretum.


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

Nemeth said with dry conditions, a close call like Monday can come at any time.

"We just have to be incredibly vigilant, and we are not stopping being vigilant here, so we dodged a bullet, but we'll see what happens going forward," Nemeth said. "Next time."

The Boyce Thompson Arboretum is set to reopen to the public on Wednesday.