ADOT ready to respond after wildfires

ADOT ready to respond after wildfires

By John LaBarbera / ADOT Communications
July 9, 2021

Backbone Fire near the junction of state routes 87 and 260

As fires continue to burn throughout Arizona, our highways are in various stages of closures and reopenings. But once a road does reopen, it’s imperative for motorists to be prepared and expect the unexpected.

State Route 77 recently reopened between Globe and Winkelman after being closed much of June due to the Telegraph Fire. And while the fire itself is contained, there’s still plenty to be aware of while driving the highway.

Expect the unexpected!

In areas affected by a burn scar, you may come across loose debris or even a rock fall. It’s important to pay extra attention when traveling through these areas. There’s also a chance for flash floods, especially with monsoon season now upon us.

If you happen upon a road closure sign, don’t go around it! It’s there for your safety, and the safety of all Arizona motorists. Turn around and check out for an alternate route to your destination.

Due to wildfires this year and in recent years, burn scars are scattered throughout the state. If there is a heavy monsoon rain, the potential for flooding in and around a burn scar exists. ADOT crews prepare for this by staging equipment along the highway. That way, if a compromising situation should arise, personnel are primed to respond quickly.

Last summer, after the Bush Fire scorched through the Lake Roosevelt area, State Route 188 experienced a mudslide as seen in the image to the left. Since ADOT crews were ready to go, the road was closed quickly and without any motorists getting stuck for a long time. The same emergency action plan is being applied this year.

And it’s not just one highway that may be affected by possible burn scar circumstances. Kurt Harris, assistant district engineer with ADOT’s southeast district, tells us that in 2021 alone, there are several highways they’ll be keeping a close eye on. Those include state routes 77, 88, 177, 188 and 288 along with US routes 60 and 70. 

Crews will be staging equipment in these areas so they can respond quickly to clean up debris or clear the road of any hazard that may be present. 

So what type of equipment do ADOT crews use in these situations? Drivers will likely see loaders and sidecast brooms as they pass by staging areas. These pieces of machinery help clear the road efficiently.

Burn scars have formed in other areas of the state as well, like state routes 87 and 260 from the Backbone Fire, and US 191 from the Bear Fire.

Wherever your summer travels take you, it’s important to bring along this advice should you find yourself in one of these affected areas.

And remember, AZ 511 is your go-to source for Arizona highway incidents. If you’re looking for local road information or flood alerts, both Gila and Pinal counties have emergency alert websites as well.