Telegraph Fire And Mescal Fire: The Latest On The Wildfires Near Globe, Miami, Superior

By Ron Dungan, Jill Ryan, Mark Brodie, Lauren Gilger, Jack Johnson
Howard Fischer, Capitol Media Services; Associated Press
Published: Tuesday, June 8, 2021 - 7:29am
Updated: Tuesday, June 29, 2021 - 6:23pm

June 29: Crews Analyzing Impacts, Aftermath Of Telegraph Fire

Arizona Trail within the Telegraph Fire
Department of Interior, BAER
Overview of Arizona Trail within the Telegraph Fire.

Crews are wrapping up operations on the Telegraph Fire, which burned more than 180,000 acres east of Phoenix.

Some of their work will begin the process of restoring the burnt landscape.

The fire burned south of Superior and Globe to become the sixth-largest fire in Arizona history.

Crews reported more than 90 percent containment as of Tuesday and have begun their post-fire operations, including an assessment of the damage, known as the Burn Area Emergency Response. 

The BAER report will evaluate threats to life, property and the watershed moving forward.

The National Weather Service forecast calls for rain in the upcoming week, which could help contain active wildfires throughout the state, but could also spark new lightning-caused blazes and lead to flooding.

June 20: Telegraph Fire Grows Inside And Outside Containment Lines

The Telegraph Fire near Globe has grown to almost 180,000 acres, and its containment percentage has lowered to 67% since the start of the weekend.

The fire was 72% contained for some time this week, but dropped to 67% on Saturday.

Fire spokesperson Penny Bertram says growth is happening within containment areas, as well as stretching outside of previously placed fire lines.

“So both, there’s areas that are completely contained, but that will continue to burn whatever’s green in that area, so there’s a little bit of that,” said Bertram.

Bertram says 35 mph winds in the area on Sunday are a concern for firefighting crews.

She says most of this weekend’s growth has been on the southern portion of the fire.

The Telegraph and Mescal fires merged on Wednesday, but the Mescal Fire was 100% contained on Friday.

There have been no evacuation orders issued for the area as of Sunday afternoon.

June 19: Telegraph Fire Grows To 170,000 Acres

Telegraph Fire was active in the Troy Mountain area
The Telegraph Fire was active in the Troy Mountain area on June 16, 2021.

Of the fires currently burning in Arizona, nine have grown to over 1,000 acres, three have grown to over 10,000 acres, and the Telegraph Fire has grown to over 170,000 acres.

It is currently the sixth-largest wildfire in Arizona history, just behind 2020’s Bush Fire.

The Backbone Fire near Strawberry and Payson almost tripled in size from Friday to Saturday, and is still 0% contained.

Some smaller fires have recently broken out in Apache National Forest in eastern Arizona, caused by lightning strikes in the area.

June 18: Firefighters Use Different Strategies In Wilderness, Urban Interface

Pinnacle Fire
Dark smoke and the red sun in the desert from the Pinnacle Fire on June 13, 2021.

The Telegraph Fire near Globe has burned more than 176,000 acres, while the Pinnacle Fire has burned more than 26,000 acres to the east. Each fire has presented different challenges, so firefighters have used different strategies in the field.

The Telegraph Fire started south of Superior and brushed up against a number of other communities, such as Top of the World and Globe. Firefighters did their best to protect homes, but so far it has taken out about 50 structures. The Pinnacle fire is in a more remote area, and at times has gone into the Santa Teresa Wilderness, where firefighters are mindful that fire plays a role in the natural landscape.

“Those are set aside for natural functions to occur," said Gerry Perry, a fire information specialist with the Pinnacle Fire. "And we respect that in our firefighting efforts in those areas. So we’re not as aggressively working the portion of the wilderness area. You have to let it come out to, not only come out of the wilderness area but into more defensible terrain.”

Last year, nearly a million acres burned in Arizona wildfires.

June 17: Telegraph Fire Keeps Moving South; Pinnacle Fire Forces Evacuations

The Pinnacle Fire burns on a steep slope on June 16, 2021.

Firefighters have made progress in the Telegraph Fire, with 72% containment, but the Pinnacle Fire has burned more than 17,000 acres and forced evacuations in the communities of Klondyke and Aravaipa.

The Pinnacle Fire is burning in rugged terrain in southeast Arizona.

The blaze is still a long way from Klondyke and Aravaipa, located near the entrance to Aravaipa Canyon.

But there is only one road out, so the communities were evacuated as a precaution.

Firefighters continue to work the southern flank of the Telegraph Fire, which has burned for about two weeks near Globe and Superior.

“You know every day it goes up, and then towards the evening it comes back down because of the wind flow," said Penny Bertram, a fire information officer with the Telegraph Fire. "So they’re really looking for opportunities as the fire kind of keeps seeming to want to have that type of behavior.”

Crews are watching a flareup near Superior, where fire and smoke are visible. Water levels at San Carlos Lake are so low that air crews are going to Roosevelt Lake for their water.

June 16: Telegraph Fire Hits Mescal Burn Scar, Moves South

The Telegraph Fire near Globe has burned more than 148,000 acres and has pushed east into the Mescal Fire.

A week or two ago that would have been cause for concern, but now that’s good news for firefighters.

The Telegraph Fire moved from the desert outside of Superior to higher ground with manzanita and oak, where it burned hot and frustrated attempts to contain it.

It returned to desert terrain as it moved east, and last night reached the Mescal Fire burn scar, where it is running out of fuel.

“It’s actually stopping once it hits the Mescal Fire rather than like Rodeo-Chediski where they were both active and they sucked together and created a big conflagration basically," said Dick Fleishman, a fire information officer with the Telegraph Fire. "So, yeah, if they were both burning it would be bad but in this case it’s good.”

Firefighters must now secure lines to the south, where the fire is burning quickly through desert terrain, some of which has invasive grasses.

The Telegraph Fire is now the sixth-largest wildfire in state history.

Fleishman said the fire can move quickly, but is not burning as hot as it did in higher elevations, where flames could reach 60 feet or more.

“It will still put out a pretty good flame length, you know five, six, eight feet, and then when there's a little brush in it it adds to that flame but it moves rather rapidly to the south," he said. "So, that’s what our job is today, is to get around that south end of it.”

Pinal County has issued an air quality advisory for communities near the fire.

So far, about a quarter of a million of acres have burned in the state this year, including more than 15,000 acres at the Pinnacle Fire in southeastern Arizona.

June 15: Telegraph Fire Makes A Run To Become 7th Largest In State History

A view of the Telegraph Fire
A view of the Telegraph Fire on June 4, 2021.

Firefighters have the Telegraph Fire 68% contained, but the fire has burned more than 123,000 acres to become the seventh largest wildfire in Arizona history.

Firefighters have made significant gains on the fire, but it jumped a line and worked through rugged terrain as temperatures soared.

U.S. 60 between Globe and Superior has reopened, but the fire’s resurgence and movement to the east has reclosed State Route 77.

About a thousand firefighters have been called to the blaze, which has burned 22 structures and sent haze over the skies of Phoenix.

A number of communities in the area have evacuated.

June 13: Evacuation Orders Lifted For 2 Communities

An aerial view of land burned in the Telegraph Fire
Howard Fischer/Capitol Media Services
An aerial view of land burned in the Telegraph Fire.

People living in two Arizona communities that were evacuated due to a massive wildfire can now return home.

Evacuation orders were lifted Saturday for the communities of Top-of-the-World and Oak Flats. Electric power also was restored in both communities.

The Telegraph fire has burned 136 square miles south of Superior. The blaze, which was 45% contained on Saturday, forced hundreds of people out of their homes and destroyed about two dozen structures.

The human-caused fire was first reported on June 4.

In the same region, the Mescal Fire has burned 113 square miles.

The fire near Globe was 82% contained. The cause is under investigation.

June 10: Firefighters Optimistic With Progress On Arizona Wildfires

A pair of wildfires east of the Valley have consumed more than 157,000 acres so far, but firefighters remain cautiously optimistic. Firefighters at the Mescal Fire have improved their lines and reported 36% containment.

Crews at the Telegraph Fire report also reported progress, with 40% containment.

Gov. Ducey has declared a state of emergency for each blaze, which means the state will qualify for federal relief.

A cabin in Gila County belonging to Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers was destroyed earlier this week, and thousands of people have either evacuated or have their bags packed.

The cause of the Mescal Fire is unknown.

The Telegraph Fire is believed to be human-caused, in spite of fire restrictions throughout the state.

June 10: Ducey Calls Special Session On Wildfire Recovery, Prevention

Gov. Doug Ducey and San Carlos Apache Tribe chairman Perry Rambler
Howard Fischer/Capitol Media Services
Gov. Doug Ducey (left) chats June 10, 2021, with Terry Rambler, chairman of the San Carlos Apache Tribe after taking a tour of fire damage.

GLOBE — Saying the current wildfires engulfing large swaths of Arizona are just the beginning of problems, Gov. Doug Ducey on Thursday called for a special legislative session to begin this coming week.

"It's clear that we still have a lot more to do,'' the governor said after taking a helicopter tour over the fires — and charred remains — of the Telegraph and Mescal fires.

"The response won't end when the fires are put out,'' he continued. "When this year's monsoon rains come, these burned areas are prone to landslides, mudslides and flooding, which pose another threat to our communities.''

While the legislature already is in session, Ducey said having a concurrent session should pave the way for quick approval of the funds needed "to contain these wildfires, possible flooding, and any other natural disasters that arise from this emergency.''

The governor also is hoping the session provides an opportunity for lawmakers, who have been at odds with each other over the budget proposal, to come together in a bipartisan fashion, at least on this issue.

Ducey credited House Speaker Rusty Bowers (R-Mesa) with the idea of the special session. Aside from his role at the Capitol, Bowers has personal experience with the current emergency, having lost a family cabin in Gila County to the fire.

June 9: Firefighters Deal With A New Threat: People Driving Into Fire Area

Telegraph fire
The Telegraph Fire on the morning of June 5, 2021.

Two wildfires burning east of Phoenix have consumed about 150,000 acres near Globe and Superior.

Firefighters remain optimistic, but the fires continue to present challenges.

As firefighters worked on the Telegraph Fire, they also had to remove members of the public who went into the fire closure area, including a vehicle that got stuck in a bulldozer line. Crews secured firelines and conducted small burnouts, Fire Information Officer Dean McAlister said they made progress during the night in spite of the distractions.

“Unfortunately with the road system through that area south of Globe we can’t control every road access, and what we are asking folks is to please stay out of the fire area," Dean McAlister said. "We have our hands full and somebody getting up there might get in the position where we don’t know they’re there, and if the fire moved through they’d be in an awkward situation.”

To the east, teams working the Mescal Fire also secured lines and reported 33% containment.

Gov. Ducey declared two states of emergency in response to the fires, which means the state will qualify for federal relief.

June 9: 'I've Never Seen A Fire This Close To Our Town' Miami Mayor On Mescal, Telegraph Fires

A sign outside of fire camp near Superior
Ron Dungan/KJZZ
A sign outside of fire camp near Superior on June 8, 2021.

Gov. Doug Ducey spoke with the mayors of Globe, Superior and Miami June 8 about the wildfires burning nearby.

The Show spoke with Miami Mayor Sammy Gonzales and started the conversation by asking for the latest in his town.

Hear Miami Mayor Sammy Gonzales' Interview With Host Mark Brodie On The Show

June 9: Governor Issues Declarations Of Emergency, Communities Evacuated As Fires Rage

Gov. Doug Ducey issued Declarations of Emergency June 9 for both the Mescal and Telegraph Fires burning east of Phoenix near Globe and Miami, freeing up to $400,000 for response efforts.

The Mescal Fire has now grown to nearly 70,000 acres and is 20% contained, and the Telegraph Fire is even bigger.

Several communities in the area have been ordered to evacuate or have been told to be ready to evacuate when they get the call.

The Show spoke with Fire Information Officer Dick Fleishman who is on the scene of the Telegraph Fire, for more on how the situation is evolving.

Hear Fire Information Officer Dick Fleishman's Interview With Host Lauren Gilger On The Show

June 8: Wildfires In Globe, Superior Area Grow To More Than 136,000 Acres

Nick Jones Maranatha Baptist Church
Maranatha Baptist Church
Pastor Nick Jones (right) addresses the congregation at Maranatha Baptist Church in Globe.

A pair of wildfires have grown to more than 136,000 acres in rugged terrain in the desert east of Phoenix. Firefighters are cautiously optimistic.

A number of communities near the fires remain on alert, but firefighters continued to pursue a box and burn strategy to keep the blaze away from homes and buildings. Hot, dry conditions remain a problem.

A fire camp in Superior was nearly empty at mid-day, though a few firefighters dropped by.

“We came back here to resupply, with our, in particular we need to get some hose,” said Toby Weed, a firefighter from Utah.

Firefighters face temperatures approaching triple digits throughout most of the day, and smoke was visible from Highway 60, just outside Superior.

June 8: Globe Pastor: 'We Are Always Praying For Rain'

Glow from the Telegraph Fire
U.S. Forest Service
Glow from the Telegraph Fire as firefighters work through the night on June 4, 2021.

Hear Pastor Nick Jones' Interview With Host Mark Brodie On The Show

As the fires continue to burn to the southeast and southwest of Globe, The Show spoke with Nick Jones, pastor of Maranatha Baptist Church in Globe. Jones says the community is used to fire danger, and he remains hopeful that the current blazes stay away from homes.

June 8: Boyce Thompson Arboretum Evacuated Due To Wildfire

Smoke rises from the Mescal Fire
Smoke rises from the Mescal Fire on June 6, 2021.

The dangerous Telegraph Fire has continued to grow in size as it burns west of Globe. For firefighters trying to contain the blaze, the normal strategy of waiting for the nighttime cooling of temperatures is being thwarted by abnormal weather conditions in the area.

Dean McCallister, fire information officer at the command center, says wind is a concern and the reason for the fire's quick and continued spread. 

“Our biggest problem right now is we have very little humidity recovery at night. Normally on these fires we have the opportunity to go in and do some work in the evening to create control lines and such. But right now, the fire is burning as actively at night as it is during the day," said McCallister.

The fire has burned more than 70,000 acres as of Tuesday and is still zero percent contained.

McAlister says there have been numerous evacuation orders including the Boyce Thompson Arboretum, the largest and oldest botanical garden in Arizona, as firefighters struggle to contain the fire. 

“The entire fire is steep, very rugged terrain, which makes it difficult for firefighters. We are fortunate that we have some roads that we can use [as] control features, so we’re working on those," McAlister said.

This fire, along with the Mescal Fire on the San Carlos Apache reservation southeast of Globe, has consumed more than 100,000 acres east of the Valley. 

June 7: Wildfires Burning South Of Globe-Miami Area Trigger Evacuations

A firefighter monitors a burnout operation in the Telegraph Fire
A firefighter monitors a burnout operation in the Oak Flat area on the Telegraph Fire on June 6, 2021.

Homes in the Miami area have been evacuated in the wake of the Telegraph Fire east of Phoenix as two fires burning in the desert south of the Miami-Globe area have consumed nearly 100,000 acres.

Several communities were placed on alert as the Telegraph Fire grew over the weekend.

The Mescal Fire has burned through desert terrain on the San Carlos Apache Reservation, where firefighters are using a box and burn strategy to contain the blaze.

“The big story is, it’s the weather. Dry, hot and windy," said said David Shell, of the Mescal Fire’s incident command. "And then also the fuels are very dry, due to like two years of extreme drought in Arizona. So the fires can spread very rapidly under these conditions.” 

Last year was one of the hottest, driest years on record in Arizona.

EDITOR'S NOTE: The story has been updated to correct the spelling of Terry Rambler's name. 

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