Bighorn Fire north of Tucson burns past Mt. Lemmon

The fire grew to over 31,000 acres Wednesday

(UPDATED at 12:10 p.m. MDT June 19, 2020)

Bighorn Fire Map
The red line was the perimeter of the Bighorn Fire detected by a mapping flight at 9 p.m. MDT June 18. The yellow line was the perimeter detected by a mapping flight about 24 hours before.

Thursday’s decreasing winds gave firefighters on the Bighorn Fire somewhat of a break, at least when compared with the difficult conditions on Wednesday that pushed the blaze northeast over Mt. Lemmon. Hand crews and personnel on fire engines were able to make progress, said Operations Section Chief Travis Mayberry.

(To see all articles on Wildfire Today about the Bighorn Fire including the most recent, click here.)

The lower wind speeds Friday could result in smoke being more visible in the communities near the fire. Weather forecasters expect temperatures of around 100 degrees with very low relative humidity.

Thursday night the fire was mapped at 37,058 acres, an increase of 5,850 acres in 24 hours.

Bighorn Fire Tanker 105 Tanker 10 BAe-146
Tanker 105 (foreground), an MD-87 (N295EA) operated by Erickson Aero Tanker, and Tanker 10, a BAe-146 (N472NA) operated by Neptune Aviation maneuver over the Bighorn Fire. Ned Harris photo.

Fire managers expect growth to the northeast in Cañada del Oro and Alder Canyons on Friday. Crews working south of Oracle and San Manuel will tie in containment lines today, in preparation for additional firing operations Friday evening. Firefighters on Mt. Lemmon are using an assortment of tools, including controlled burning, to protect the communities along the Catalina Highway.

As the high winds that had been keeping the fire burning on Samaniego Ridge and the top of Ventana Canyon subside, the fire may move downslope at a moderate pace. Firefighters will have to wait to engage some sections of the fire until after it transitions onto less steep terrain.


(Originally published at 1:35 p.m. MDT June 18, 2020)

map Bighorn Fire Arizona Tucson
3-D map of the perimeter of the Bighorn Fire mapped by fixed wing aircraft at 10:33 p.m. MDT June 17, 2020.

Since it started June 5 from a lightning strike the Bighorn Fire five miles north of Tucson has been adding less than 4,000 acres every day, until Wednesday when strong winds pushed it past Mt. Lemmon, growing by about 13,000 acres to bring the total up to 31,208 acres.

Firefighting resources assigned to the fire include 15 hand crews, 60 engines, 8 helicopters, 12 water tenders, and 6 dozers.

From the Incident Management Team Thursday morning:

“Today, fire managers anticipate the fire will move towards Charouleau Gap, depending on wind direction and temperatures. Fire crews and air support are in place preparing and widening fire lines for this expected spread of the fire. On Mt. Lemmon, the fire moved through Oracle Ridge and generated spot fires in Stratton Canyon. Expect highly visible smoke as those areas burn together today. Crews working overnight implemented controlled burns along the Catalina Highway corridor. Firing operations will continue today, if necessary, to protect values at risk.

“Air operations including fixed-wing airtankers were up early this morning, dropping water and fire retardant to slow the fire’s spread. Winds will continue to be a factor today, but less so than yesterday. The fire burning in the Ventana Canyon area and along Samaniego Ridge will be monitored by air support today. Minimal downslope backing of the fire is anticipated in that area. Crews will tie together the two containment lines north of the fire perimeter to protect the communities of Oracle and San Manuel.”

map Bighorn Fire Arizona Tucson
Perimeter of the Bighorn Fire mapped by fixed wing aircraft at 10:33 p.m. MDT June 17, 2020.
Bighorn Fire Arizona Tucson wildfire
Bighorn Fire, undated or credited Inciweb photo
progression acres Bighorn Fire Arizona Tucson
Bighorn Fire Progression. By the Incident Management Team.

Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire. Google+

7 thoughts on “Bighorn Fire north of Tucson burns past Mt. Lemmon”

  1. So, what is now the latest on this as of mid morning on June 19th? Have Summerhaven and the ski lodge been saved?

  2. I have a question.. why was there 1290 firefighter’s for the Aspin fire but for this for which is 37000 acres we only have 900 firefighter’s? I don’t want to lose my house.. I don’t want my friends and neighbors to lose their houses… It’s all we have. Pls fight for us. We’re scared.

  3. What firefighting fools. These incompetent firefighters had the small fire almost completely out near bighorn butte and under control. Then they let it burn for a day without working the fire and let it get out of control yet again. I had a view of their tanker from my back yard. The missed the fire with their tanker drops and spotter planes I pay a yearly special fee for these clowns in my property taxes for years and years and this is how they repay the community

  4. I have this rather vague memory that there used to be a federal regulation that a fire which was started by natural causes inside the boundary of a designated wilderness area is allowed to burn. Is that so? Does anybody else know anything like that?

    Is that, by chance, what happened here? If that does turn out to be the case then that regulation needs to be done away with. Any small fire whether started by natural causes or not needs to be snuffed out right away during period of hot, dry, windy weather.

    I’m all in favor of prescribed burns whether they be man made or started by lightning when the weather conditions are favorable for that. However there are times when conditions are most certainly not favorable and this Bighorn Fire occurred during one of those bad times.

    Regards,
    Fred M. Cain,
    Topeka, IN

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