TUCSON, Ariz. - Sheriff’s deputies went door to door evacuating more residents from the Santa Catalina Mountains overlooking Tucson as a wildfire, one of several in Arizona, continued to grow.
As of July 8, the Bighorn Fire covered 119,020 acres with 78% containment.
Many neighborhoods have been evacuated but some are able to begin returning June 7.
Full-time residents and community members of Summerhaven and Willow Canyon can begin returning Tuesday at noon but there are some instructions to follow when returning.
If anyone needs assistance, call the Red Cross at 1-800-842-7349.
The Bighorn Fire’s evacuation notices via interactive map:
GO - Evacuate
- Redington Community
- Mt. Bigelow & Lower Soldier HOA
- Lower Catalina Highway and Lower Mt. Lemmon communities.
- Eastern slope of the Catalina Mountains south of the Pima County line and west of the community of Redington.
- Southern Catalinas bordered by Mt. Lemmon Highway beginning at milepost 3 on the west and by Redington Road on the east. The northern and southern boundaries do not follow any specific road.
- Southeastern Catalinas around Redington Road, bounded by the county line on the east.
Interactive evacuation map: http://bit.ly/PCBigHornFire
SET – Be Alert
READY – Prepare Now
- Oro Valley area from Catalina State Park south to Magee Road
- Tucson foothills area from First Avenue east to Alvernon Way
- Community of Oracle
- Portions of east Golder Ranch area
- Peppersauce Canyon to Highjinks Road and Campo Benito
- Catalina Foothills between Alvernon Way and Kolb Road, north of Skyline Drive
- Catalina Foothills areas east of Kolb Road within northern areas of Ventana Canyon neighborhoods
It wasn’t immediately known how many homes were affected. Many residences on Mount Lemmon are summer cabins.
On June 18, officials said the fire had reached the north side of Mount Lemmon and also was to expected to push through a gap several miles to the north.
Crews were conducting burnouts to deprive the fire of fuel and improving containment lines in several areas to protect Mount Lemmon and the communities of Oracle and San Manuel.
Catalina Highway at milepost 0 will be closed and open to only home and business owners.
On June 18, the communities of Oracle and parts of east Golder Ranch were placed on "Set" status, meaning residents there should get ready to evacuate.
The surrounding area south of East Hawser St. and east of North Lago del Oro Parkway, including Catalina Regional Park are under a "SET - Be Alert” notice.
Three firefighters reported minor heat-related illness.
Operations on the night of June 12 focused near the community of Golder Ranch, where fire activity had picked up due to extremely hot and dry conditions.
“The fire activity near the homes has dropped down due to the good work of our firefighters,” said Adam Jarrold, public information officer for the fire management team.
Authorities said the Bighorn fire’s growth had slowed, but it remained a threat. Flames have been visible from Tucson at night, and smoke from the fire plumed over a suburb Friday morning. Later in the day, an air tanker was seen spreading red fire retardant over the flames.
The firefighting effort will get help from Federal Emergency Management Agency, which officials say has granted Arizona’s request for federal funds.
“We do have some weather concerns,” said incident meteorologist Gary Zell, who was stationed Friday at now-closed Catalina State Park.
“These guys are heroes, working all day in up to 107 degrees (41.6 Celsius),” said Zell, who has worked wildfires around the West for two decades. “This is the first time I’ve worked a fire in my hometown so I’m pretty vested in making sure everything goes well.”
Bighorn Fire in the Catalina Mountains. (Instagram / @abhiv_7575)
Over 400 firefighters aided by aircraft dropping water and retardant battled the lightning-sparked fire that as of Friday had burned mostly brush and tall grass.
Sheriff’s officials went door to door in neighborhoods to notify residences of the evacuation notice, which a sheriff’s spokesman said wasn’t mandatory.
“People are not required to leave, however, we are telling people we may not be able to come back and assist if things start to burn,” said Deputy James Allerton.
No injuries or structural damage was reported, Allerton said.
”It’s not a great place for us to put people in to safely work,” he said. "It’s just too steep."
Mayberry said crews continued to clear lines to keep the fire away from homes south of the forest and might set additional fires to burn vegetation to slow the wildfire by depriving it of potential fuel.
The fire was reportedly sparked on June 5 by lightning.
Most of the western United States is experiencing extreme dryness or drought, creating challenging conditions for wildfire season, Bryan Henry, a meteorologist with the National Interagency Fire Center, said in a recent fire season outlook.
Authorities have said southern Arizona’s dry, hot weather and the steep, rocky topography have been the main challenges in fighting the fire.
Catalina State Park is closed.
The Santa Catalina Mountains, or the Catalinas, is just north of Tucson and is the most widely-known mountain range in the area.
- Fire information line: (520) 329-7439 8 a.m. - 8 p.m.
The Associated Press contributed to this report. Anita Snow reported from Phoenix. Paul Davenport in Phoenix also contributed.