A Thatcher resident could be fined nearly $500 in connection with the Gila River bed fire that endangered the Thatcher bridge earlier this month.
According to a Graham County Sheriff’s Office report released Friday, deputies have asked the Graham County Attorney’s Office to issue a reckless burning citation to the man, stating he willfully disregarded Thatcher Fire Chief Mike Payne’s request not to burn construction materials without seeking a permit first. Payne estimated it cost Thatcher $487 to battle the blaze.
The landowner was told by local authorities he could not burn construction materials on April 27 without a permit, but “blatantly” ignored Payne and a deputy’s warnings two days later when he started the fire again, according to the report. He lost control of the blaze and it entered the river, officials said.
Thatcher firefighters extinguished the fire, but it flared up again May 2 and entered Safford’s jurisdiction.
Deputies quote the man as saying, “Don’t get me wrong, I’m not thinking I’m bigger than the law by any means. I’m thinking I’m too busy for it sometimes, which is a difference. I’m not trying to be arrogant, I’m just being, I’m being reckless because I got a lot of stuff going on.” He later said he had “No excuses.”
The April 29 fire also spread to a neighboring property and toward the Thatcher bridge on Reay Lane. As the fire burned, the bridge had to be closed for four hours as the fire department fought to keep the power lines from burning.
The Safford Fire Department has battled 14 brush fires since April 14; all are suspected of being caused by humans. The Thatcher Fire Department, too, has battled other brush fires.
“We’ve had a wet winter so it brought on a lot of vegetation. Some people get carried away when they burn. There’s still something smoldering and a little bit of wind comes along and away it goes,” said Payne. “They think they’re being safe and a lot of times things smolder a lot longer than they think they will.”