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Arizona’s Bighorn Fire Continues to Grow in Mountains North of Tucson

And the Bush Fire, as of Monday, was 38,000 acres and growing fast with zero containment. It has been burning mostly tall grass and brush in the Tonto National Forest near the Four Peaks Wilderness Area. More than 300 personnel are working on the fire.

by Carol Ann Alaimo, The Arizona Daily Star, Tucson / June 16, 2020
(TNS) - The Bighorn Fire’s estimated containment date has been extended from June 25 to July 4, authorities said Monday as specialized wildland firefighters from four western states converged in Santa Catalina Mountains north of Tucson to help.

And it very well could be extended again depending on conditions on the ground, said Cindy Wolfe, a media spokeswoman for the Bighorn Fire.

“They aren’t leaving until they are able to put a containment line all the way around the fire, until they feel confident it will not restart,” Wolfe said in an interview.

Meanwhile, seven bulldozers — typically used to create strips of denuded land around a fire perimeter — began arriving Monday after being summoned into service late Sunday, online fire updates show.

The fire, which began June 5, had grown to about 15,000 acres and was 30% contained as of Monday evening, officials said.

Hundreds of homeowners on the fire’s outskirts have been put on standby for possible evacuation, including residents in the Mount Lemmon community of Summerhaven.

Firefighters on Mount Lemmon are ensuring existing fire breaks created earlier are clear and that defensible space is maintained.

Crews are working north toward the town of Oracle, scouting for containment features and identifying areas at risk, Coronado National Forest officials said.

Six 20-person hotshot crews — including teams from California, Montana, Utah and Idaho — are camped out in the Catalina Mountains near Summerhaven, Ventana Canyon and other populated areas, Wolfe said.

Greg Huele, a fire information officer, said hotshots are trained to assess where fire is likely to spread and which prevention techniques will work best to keep flames away from people and structures.
“They typically are given the most difficult tasks,” such as hacking through brush with chain saws or digging fire lines by hand.

Fire-related closures include Catalina State Park, Sabino and Bear canyons, numerous mountain campgrounds and trails. The Catalina Highway up to Mount Lemmon is closed to the general public.

Bush Fire
In central Arizona, about 40 miles east of Phoenix, a wildfire has forced residents in the communities of Tonto Basin and Punkin Center to evacuate their homes. The community of Sunflower has been given notice to prepare for a possible evacuation. The American Red Cross has set up a shelter at Lee Kornegay School in Miami, according to emergency management in Gila County.
The fire has closed the area around Beeline Highway and Bush Highway.

The Bush Fire, as of Monday, was 38,000 acres and growing fast with zero containment.
It has been burning mostly tall grass and brush in the Tonto National Forest near the Four Peaks Wilderness Area. More than 300 personnel are working on the fire.

It was first reported Saturday afternoon and investigators say it appears to be human caused.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.

Contact reporter Carol Ann Alaimo at 573-4138 or calaimo@tucson.com. On Twitter: @StarHigherEd
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