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PRIMER: Gila County Powers Through Wildfire, Flooding Recovery

Gila County faced a catastrophic wildfire season. Fire and safety officials knew that even when the blazes subsided, these communities still faced threats such as flooding and monsoons.

Governor Doug Ducey acted promptly to alleviate the burden of these threats. On June 10, he announced a special session to ensure Arizona has the resources needed to fight this season’s wildfires and address after-effects like flooding.

The Legislature took swift action and on June 18 passed H.B. 2001, a bipartisan relief package which ensures Arizona communities have the necessary resources for disasters such as wildfires and post-fire flooding. Governor Ducey signed the legislation the same day, making $100 million available for recovery and support efforts.

Gila County Emergency Management is working with the Arizona Department of Forestry and Fire Management and the Arizona Department of Emergency and Military Affairs to utilize funding from H.B. 2001 to help Gila County residents in their time of need. The funding is being used to:

  • Remove debris in washes, private and public properties, and roadways affected by fire or flooding;

  • Obtain services related to hydrology services, mapping, rain gauges, creek monitoring cameras and flood mitigation projects;

  • Purchase and rent heavy equipment to assist with debris removal;

  • Purchase sand, sandbags, sandbagging machines and jersey barriers to mitigate properties;

  • Secure temporary living accommodations for individuals who have lost their homes due to fire or flooding;

  • Repair damaged infrastructure; and

  • Repair damaged roads for ingress and egress. 

“The relief package that was passed and signed has been critical in our efforts to help build back our communities,” said Director of Public Health and Emergency Management at Gila County Michael O’Driscoll. “My thanks go out to the Legislature and the Governor for bringing these resources to the fore. This is an ongoing recovery effort, and we will continue to provide these services and more in an effort to return our community to a state of normalcy.”

Funding from the bipartisan relief package has aided Gila County, municipalities and residents with a bulk of the recovery costs. To date, the bill has funded more than $3.7 million in fire and post-fire flood-related costs for Gila County, including $271,000 for the City of Globe, $188,000 for the Town of Miami and $3.3 million for the county. The state continues to work with impacted communities to distribute the remaining funding to qualifying recovery costs.

“Ensuring public safety and supporting communities’ recovery is one of my Department’s top priorities, and this relief package has given support to firefighters and safety officials to help us combat disasters and rebuild Arizona communities,” said David Tenney, Director of the Department of Forestry and Fire Management. “I’m grateful for the support of our state leaders for giving us the tools we need to keep Arizonans safe during these challenging times.”

State, county, and local governments, as well as non-profit organizations may also apply for additional grant funds to repair infrastructure that was damaged from fire or fire suppression activities through Arizona’s Post-Wildfire Infrastructure Assistance Program

BACKGROUND On June 9, Governor Ducey issued Declarations of Emergency in response to the Telegraph and Mescal fires, which burned up to 180,757 acres and 72,250 acres, respectively, throughout Gila County’s Globe and Miami. After first responders controlled the wildfires, the communities suffered severe damage from post-fire flooding. 

On June 10, Governor Ducey announced a special session of the Arizona Legislature to ensure our state has the resources needed to combat this season’s wildfires and address potentially deadly after effects like flooding. He made the announcement during a press conference in Globe, where he, lawmakers and firefighting officials provided the latest information about the Telegraph and Mescal Fires in Pinal and Gila Counties.

On June 18, he signed a $100 million bipartisan relief package passed by the Legislature during the special session. The package was led by a bipartisan group of legislators representing both rural and urban Arizona, including House Speaker Rusty Bowers, Representative Gail Griffin, Representative David Cook, House Minority Leader Reginald Bolding, Senate President Karen Fann, Senate President Pro Tem Vince Leach, Senator Sine Kerr and Senate Minority Leader Rebecca Rios. 

H.B. 2001 includes:

  • $24.6 million for a partnership between the Department of Forest and Fire Management and the Arizona Department of Corrections, Rehabilitation and Reentry to reduce wildfire risk to Arizona communities by removing fire-prone vegetation; and

  • $75 million for fire suppression efforts, recovery efforts including post-fire floods, economic assistance for those displaced, and assistance to landowners for emergency repairs to infrastructure damaged by wildfires.