Work on firebreaks along the Gila River to resume Oct. 15

The Thomas Fire in the Gila River bottom in 2018. - Contributed Photo/Gayle Black Orth

SAFFORD — Graham County is getting ready to resume its wildfire abatement program.

County Manager Dustin Welker said the program took a break during the summer due to environmental concerns.

“On the week of Oct. 15 we’ll begin the firebreaks again in the Gila River,” Welker said. “We have 12 remaining breaks to finish out this project. We’ll start on the west end in Geronimo.”

When the county first opened bidding for the project in 2020, the first phase called for removal of 180 acres of tamarisk, which included seven firebreaks of “approximately 400-500 feet wide around bridges.”

The second phase, which opened bidding in 2021, called for another 180 acres of tamarisk removal “to reduce the fuel loading so the area treated will not carry a fire or that it is such that flame heights can be managed using local fire suppression resources.”

The most recent phase, which opened bidding in 2022, calls for another 180 acres of tamarisk removal in 12 firebreaks “through grubbing and masticating debris onsite.”