It will be another hot, windy day on the flanks of the Catalina Mountains, where the Bighorn Fire has burned 107,000 acres over the past three weeks. The blaze, which began from a lightning strike on June 5, is currently 45 percent contained with more than 1,000 fire personnel on the job.
Since its start, weather and geography have added to the fire's spread throughout the Pusch Ridge and Mount Lemmon areas. As it's moved north and east, the Bighorn Fire has threatened the communities of Catalina Foothills, Oracle and Summerhaven. Most recently, the fire neared the Redington area east of Mount Lemmon.
"Today, our firefighters are out there trying to look at opportunities to come around the south side to limit the fire spread coming south,” said Incident Commander Aaron Thompson. “I know that's a concern from the community and public. That's our goal and objective for the day, but we're going to be faced with some extreme winds today. The weather service is providing us that this may be one of the windiest days in the Tucson area in several years."
Fire crews have also moved in to monitor Sabino Canyon, but there are no active fires and Thompson says the area is “looking really good” and no fire has moved south of the Sabino area. The eastern edge of the fire remains the most active, with winds fanning the flames across the open areas.
"Yesterday, firefighters were extremely challenged with the winds," Thompson said. “That limited our aircraft. We were able to still fly, but the effectiveness of some of that fire retardant and water was limited."
Summerhaven has survived as a “green island” surrounded by burnt areas, Thompson said. No structures have been lost in the community thus far, and the incident management team is reporting their fire breaks are holding strong.
Fire crews remind the public that drones are prohibited over the fire area, as firefighting aircraft are busy and must be grounded in drones' presence. According to the National Forest Service, on June 8, a drone was observed over the Bighorn Fire’s southern perimeter, which "forced the aircraft suppression effort to be halted, endangering the lives of on the ground firefighters and the air crews at a critical time during the height of the burning period." This was the second such incident in three days.