Pima County prepares for wildfires, evacuations

Updated: Apr. 21, 2021 at 10:32 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) -2020 brought the second worst wildfire season Arizona’s history, and state forestry officials fear 2021 could be similar with so little rain.

The Pima County Office of Emergency Management is trying to get ahead of the next possible disaster.

“Now is the beginning of our wildfire season,” said Matt McGlone, the community outreach coordinator for the emergency management team. “In Southern Arizona, it’s when our winter ends. Basically, that’s when things start drying out.”

McGlone says every second counts during fire evacuations. He’s part of a crew of eight trying to get more people signed up for the county’s emergency notification system, called “My Alerts.”

“It’s not a situation where you’re going to be bothered,” said McGlone. “The only time you’re going to hear [from us] is when it’s an emergency, and that’s the time it’s going to count! So, hopefully they have packed away some of their stuff in case they need to [leave]. What I mean by that is maybe some medication, some cash, some paperwork.”

Pima County Sheriff’s deputies, who spent last summer evacuating Mt. Lemmon, say heeding the ‘Ready, Set, Go’ warnings is not mandatory, but it can be life-saving.

“The [Bighorn] fire was approaching some homes, moving very rapidly at points,” said deputy James Allerton. “First responders may not be able to get back to your residence, and if they do get back to your residence, you may be putting them in danger, too.”

McGlone says the emergency system has been effective so far, with no fatalities during the Bighorn fire.

“We continue to get better,” he said.

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