Bighorn Fire near Tucson grows to over 81,000 acres

Firing operations are being conducted to protect Saddlebrooke

(UPDATED at 7:53 a.m. MDT June 25, 2020)

Bighorn Fire Samaniego Peak
Bighorn Fire on Samaniego Peak, 6 p.m. June 24. Inciweb photo.

The Bighorn Fire north of Tucson was active Wednesday and Wednesday night. As firefighters worked on structure protection and fireline reinforcement in the Summerhaven and Willow Canyon areas, helicopters and air tankers successfully slowed fire spread and reduced fire intensity in the west fork of Sabino, Bird, and Rattlesnake canyons. Aerial firing operations in the Charouleau Gap area four miles east of Saddlebrook started around 5 pm.

(To see all articles about the Bighorn fire, including the most recent, click here.)

Bighorn Fire map Arizona Tucson
3-D map of the Bighorn Fire looking southeast. The red line was the perimeter at 9:46 p.m. MDT June 24, 2020. The green line was the perimeter about 24 hours before.

Firing operations also were carried out along the Catalina Highway near Spencer Peak and Spencer Canyons one mile east of Summerhaven and reinforced firelines near Dodge Wash two miles south of Oracle.

Bighorn Fire map Arizona Tucson
Map of the Bighorn Fire. The red line was the perimeter at 9:46 p.m. MDT June 24, 2020. The green line was the perimeter about 24 hours before.

A mapping flight Wednesday night determined that the Bighorn Fire had burned 81,702 acres, a 24-hour increase of over 7,000 acres.

Evacuations are in effect. For more information visit pima.gov/bighorn or pinalcountyaz.gov/emergencymanagement


(Originally published at 9:47 a.m. MDT June 24, 2020)

Bighorn Fire map Arizona
3-D map of the Bighorn Fire looking southeast. The green line was the perimeter June 19, 2020. The red line was the perimeter at 10:52 p.m. MDT June 23, 2020. The shaded areas represent intense heat detected by the mapping sensors in the fixed wing aircraft.

The Bighorn Fire has grown significantly in recent days to the north, west, and east. Since June 19 it has spread two miles to the west, five miles north, and three miles east.

During a mapping flight at 10:52 p.m. June 23 the fire was two miles south of Oracle, three miles south of Highway 77, and 2.5 miles southeast of Saddlebrooke. The fire has now burned 74,547 acres after starting from a lighting strike on June 5. About $21 million has been spent on managing the blaze.

A DC-10 Very Large Air Tanker drops retardant near Pontatoc Ridge on the Bighorn Fire north of Tucson, June 11, 2020. Photo by Tim Peterson.
A DC-10 Very Large Air Tanker drops retardant near Pontatoc Ridge on the Bighorn Fire north of Tucson, June 11, 2020. Photo by Tim Peterson.

On Tuesday structure protection and containment work supported by helicopter bucket drops focused around Mt. Lemmon, Summerhaven, and Willow Canyon. Low-intensity firing operations removed pockets of unburned fuels in these areas. Aerial firing operations were conducted south of Oracle. The efforts near Oracle Ridge and Rice Peak are intended to reduce the risk of uncontrolled fire growth to the north in the coming days.

Evacuations are in effect. For more information visit pima.gov/bighorn or pinalcountyaz.gov/emergencymanagement

Resources assigned to the fire Tuesday included 20 hand crews, 81 fire engines, 6 dozers, 19 water tenders, and 10 helicopters for a total of 876 personnel. The number of personnel assigned has decreased by 112 since Monday. There have been 4 minor injuries.

Bighorn Fire Arizona
Bighorn Fire as seen from Saddlebrook June 23, 2020. Photo by Molly Hunter.

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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+

54 thoughts on “Bighorn Fire near Tucson grows to over 81,000 acres”

  1. Most fire maps of the Bighorn show a line running from the very summit of Mount Lemmon, eastward through the ski lodge and on eastward along the north side of the highway to the Mount Bigelow area.

    Can anybody tell us how well that line is holding? Will the firefighters be able to keep the fire from crossing that line?

    Also, does anybody know how badly the Marshall Gulch area has been burned? Are there any aerial photos showing the fire in the Marshall Gulch area?

    Regards,
    Fred M. Cain

  2. Well, I sure hate to be a pessimist, I really do, but on the very latest interactive map that I was able to find, it shows the fire is now over 76,000 acres, and, tragically, it’s beginning to look more and more as though they are going to lose Summerhaven – again.

    You know, I really and truly believe that someone ought to be held accountable for this debacle and outrage but I don’t know who. It seems like this should never have happened. Since the year 2000 we have now had FOUR devastating fires on the Mountain.

    I lived in Arizona from 1958 until 1980 and I cannot recall that they EVER had a really bad fire up there. Small stuff, perhaps, but no big deal. Why four catastrophic conflagrations in under 20 years time?

    Climate change? Although I can’t prove it, I truly believe that climate change cannot be the complete explanation. The Aspen fire occurred during an exceptional and almost unprecedented drought. Not so this year. Precipitation was fairly close to normal.

    So, what’s the deal? You know, in Suzanne Henzel’s book on Mount Lemmon, she reported that in the early 1900’s they had guys all over the mountain watching for fire with the lookouts connected only by primitive copper telephone lines – some of them strung in the trees. As soon as someone spotted a smoke – everyone jumped on it.

    How is is that they could do this using 1910 technology for crying out loud and nowadays we have all this high tech stuff at our disposal but simply cannot keep a small fire from getting out of control?

    Go figure!

    I was getting ready to retire and had hopes and dreams of returning to Arizona and spending a vacation on the Mountain. That surely won’t be happening now. Think of all the tourist dollars (like mine) that will be lost on top of all the other huge expenses.

    Regards,
    Fred M. Cain,
    Topeka, Indiana

      1. I think this grass has provided fuel that wasn’t available 50 years ago. Why isn’t someone doing something about that? You don’t see fires in the Santa Rita’s like this. Hopefully not. Pray for Summerhaven

        1. Buffle gras is a serious issue. There are a few volunteer groups who have gone out and tried to help remove it. It has been a very serious problem for decades in northern Arizona but I didn’t think they had buffle grass on Mount Lemmon.

          Unfortunately, it appears they now do. Can anybody verify for sure that it’s there? How long has it been there? Did it spread there by migratory birds? Or is there possibly some other invasive grass?

          Regards,
          Fred M. Cain

      2. There is a non-native grass growing up there. It acts as kindling. It burns super hot. Also, the fire is burning in areas that firefighters cannot reach. They’re doing what they can from the air.

    1. There are many reasons blazes have been as increasingly problematic as they have been these past 20-30 years, and as frustrating an answer as it is, it’s complicated. I certainly don’t profess to understand how, why, and the ways that the various contributing factors are connected.

      That being said, the successes of the past have created in part the problems of (our) future. It has been widely observed that the exclusion of fires in many ecosystems which historically experienced them contributed to increased fuel loading.

      This, in turn, contributed to an “all or nothing” environment in which densely vegetated ecosystems either stayed moist enough not to burn in any significant way during the mild years. Conversely, during hot and dry years, the densely packed vegetation was able to burn with an intensity which was uncommon in the years before we instituted suppression.

      These more intense fires have slowly created an environment in which the forests which existed 150 years ago are unable to withstand such repeated bouts of intense fire and have begun to transition into ecosystems with more juvenile trees and a greater population of invasive grasses and brush.

      Add to this historical picture the mixture of climate change (hotter on balance but with wide extremes on both ends of precipitation and temperature) and more humans in wild places (thus more ignition potential and more disturbed landscape) and you can see that it’s a complicated mess.

      I’m not an expert and I’m not familiar with the area of this fire, but these factors are relevant across the country.

      1. Thank you for your explanation. I worked in Yellowstone NP during their big fire, which occurred after years of fire suppression caused a built up of a tremendous amount of fuel. The forest had also become somewhat sterile with nothing but lodgepole pine growing close together.

        However here it seems the invasive grasses and brush have contributed to the Bighorn fire. I saw where we had lost over 2000 Saguaros due to the amount of buffle grass growing around them. Very sad situation.

    2. The Catalina Ranger District is one of the Coronado National Forest’s “Sky Islands”. It is surrounded 360 degrees with Urban Interface. Significant fire suppression resources are often committed to protecting structures when fires start in the lower elevation urban interface.

      Steep slopes on all sides of the District make it very difficult to control fires that start on the lower slopes and burn up hill. Also, there is significant down slope movement in the light fuels at night under down slope wind conditions. Fire spread will not stop in the light fuels in the Sonora Desert fuel type when relative humidity is less than 30% resulting in significant down slope fire movement at night, and fire in the mixed conifer timber fuel type on the upper slopes often spreads as an active crown fire unmanageable by any means.

      Working on the Aspen fire in 2003 I found a 24 inch Ponderosa pine with 17 visible fire scars near Summer Haven. My educated guess is that the last scar was from a fire in the early 1900s when fire suppression first became effective. One hundred years of fire suppression has resulted in an unnatural build up of fuels that are contributing to the hotter large fires the past 20 years.

      Note: For an explanation of fire scars used to date past fire history, here’s a good article on the subject. https://www.wildlandnw.net/articles#/dry-forests-ii

    3. Dear Fred, the problem is all the rich elitists who (reside in Saddlebrooke, Ventana – you know all the “resort” and elitist communities that have swallowed up open desert, but matter “more” than the old (sometimes poorer” communities such as Summer Haven. Gotta defend the rich who should’nt have built there..

      1. I live in SaddleBrooke and I’m not a rich elitist. I moved to SaddleBrooke because I love nature and it is beautiful. I’m probably one of the poorer people that lives in this community. I love Mt. Lemmon and Summerhaven. I have hiked nearly every inch of the Santa Catalinas. I don’t golf or lie around the pool.
        It breaks my heart to see this happening. Doesn’t matter if you are rich or poor. This is hard to watch!!

        1. Linda said that “I live in SaddleBrooke and I’m not a rich elitist. I moved to SaddleBrooke because I love nature and it is beautiful. I’m probably one of the poorer people that lives in this community. I love Mt. Lemmon and Summerhaven. I have hiked nearly every inch of the Santa Catalinas. I don’t golf or lie around the pool.
          It breaks my heart to see this happening. Doesn’t matter if you are rich or poor. This is hard to watch!!”

          Linda,

          You have my sympathies. My thoughts and prayers are with you and all those who love Mount Lemmon.

          You know, my family moved to Tucson in 1958 when I was six years old. This was partly the result of some health issues I’d had as a child. I was there until 1980 with my time in Arizona basically split half and half between the Tucson and Phoenix areas.

          I just cannot begin to tell you what a lovely place Tucson was before about 1970 or ’80. It was a truly unique town with its own unique kind of culture. Basically there was a mixture of Hispanic laborers and highly educated “white collar” type people. Everyone seemed to get along fine.
          It seemed like just about anybody could move there and be accepted.

          As a child I missed the greenery of the East. Imagine my surprise and amazement when I got off of a school bus in the pines on Mount Lemmon during a school field trip.

          That sparked a life-long love of Mount Lemmon for me. I have also been in the Sierra Nevada Mountains and it always seemed to me like the forest on Mount Lemmon looked more like the Sierra forest than other places in Arizona. And it was completely surrounded by a very hot, dry desert. That’s part of what makes Mount Lemmon so unique!

          My hope and prayer is that the Bighorn Fire may have burned through much of the pine forest and caused only minor damage. Ponderosa pines are almost unbelievably fire resistant. Mature Douglas fir can be pretty much so, too.

          The tragic part will be the young saplings that grew back following the Aspen Fire. Alas, those are probably “toast”. It’s enough for me to make a grown man cry !

          Fred M. Cain,
          Topeka, Indiana
          Former Tucsonan

    4. Fred,
      That’s an awful lot of opinions and accusations from someone so far away. How can you possible have any idea how the fire fighting has been handled when you are not part of the effort. You should stay in in Indiana.

      1. Thank you Linda. I was getting ready to comment on why the sarcastic comment about the “elites”! What does she think a cabin built up on Mt Lemmon costs? Not $50.00 a sq ft🤣🤣 the firefighters have worked extremely hard to protect all properties! I could go on but it wouldn’t do any good
        Bobbie Jo

    5. I lived in California and the destruction during the fires was catastropic. Since you have never lived through the devastation of a fire, you have no idea how rapidly a fire of this magnitude can get out of hand. As for climate change, you are one of those, stay in Indiana!

    6. The Aspen fire started on Aspen loop trail. The lightening strike was discovered very quickly. No air support available. It’s in New Mexico. Call for a hand crew. None nearby. Call for a pumper. It’s nearby, but not equipped or trained to handle a lightening strike away from the truck. Nobody even started fighting that fire until the next day. No wonder it burned so much. I think what it boils down to is that budgets don’t allow for adequate fire protection.

      1. Ron,

        I think you’re getting onto something now. Perhaps one solution would be for people to start yelling at their congressmen & women to provide more $ for the Forest Service and especially for fighting fires.

        I think the Forest Service, kinda like Amtrak, has been on a starvation diet for years. That needs to end if we want to save our forests.

        Regards,
        Fred M. Cain

        1. There’s no doubt the Forest Service has budgetary issues

          I’m just left wondering how the forest managed to survive all the way up till the now without either a fuels or a suppression budget for most of its geologic history.

          It’s nice to have something, anything to blame when you watch places you love get destroyed… so if it helps, write your Representatives and tell them how you want your tax dollars spent.

          I don’t think we can spend our way out of the issue of problem fires (on Mt Lemmon or anywhere else).

          Climate change is real if poorly understood. I unfortunately don’t have much time to pore over historic precipitation and temperature data, but I know that we set lots of new records for heat, rain, and everything in between these days. Call it what you want and blame what you want (geology, humans, whatever) but I hope we can all agree that there’s been some strange weather lately.

      2. LOL, budgets, well its cost over what 20-30 million now……it would cost less money to build water tanks along a ridge with pressurized water during fires than to fight it this long

      3. Sorry Ron, but I know for a FACT that the Coronado Dispatch shop was offered 2 heavy airtankers that would have been prioritized from another fire in central/northern AZ, but they said they didn’t need them. Please get your facts straight before starting rumors. As for a “pumper” that doesn’t know how to fight fire away from the truck—also not true. Engine folks can use hand tools, too.

        1. Incorrect sir. Very incorrect. I welcome a discussion offline to provide you with all of the real info. We have / had heavies at Libby.

    7. You cannot measure drought year by year. We are in the middle of one of the worst extended droughts since record keeping began. Yes, climate change is at play here in the form of that drought.

    8. There is a non-native grass growing up there. It acts as kindling. It burns super hot. Also, the fire is burning in areas that firefighters cannot reach. They’re doing what they can from the air.

    9. Now this might be rumor so I’m am unsure if it is true but I was told that a friend of my daughter’s was sitting on her porch and saw the strike of lightning that started The Big Horn fire. After a while she saw the smoke. She called 911, they told her “okay thank you calling” well nothing happened so she called again. She called 4 times. The last time she called she was told they were going to let it burn it’s self out. Well now that it’s burnt most of the mountain down what next people? This is a disaster, if they would of just dealt with it immediately it would of only consumed a couple of acres maybe even a couple of hundred acres, but now it’s around 80,000 acres. What a crying shame. I told my daughter to tell the woman she needs to call the news channel and have this investigated. If this is true then someone ought to be responsible.

      1. Jennifer,

        Yes, it could well be a rumor. It’s hard to know if it’s true, partly true or completely false. BUT! If by chance it WERE true, it wouldn’t be the first time that something like that has happened. I once had a roommate years ago when I was at the U of A who used to fight fires in the summertime.

        I distinctly recall him telling me that the devastating Carizzo fire started out very much like that.
        It was in June of 1971 – or was it ’72? There was a dry lightning storm south of the Mogollon Rim and soon afterwards a forest ranger in the Apache/Sitgreaves National Forest spotted a smoke way off to the south on the Indian Reservation. It was a very small fire in brush country.

        The BIA was contacted and the fire reported. By the next day nothing had been done about it. The BIA was called again. By the third day still NOTHING had been done. Finally, the Forest Service got anxious, “Hey! You’ve got a fire out there”.

        Then along about day four or so a powerful late season storm moved in from California packing hot, dry southwest winds but little or no rain. The brush fire exploded into a raging inferno and spread quickly toward the northeast. I burned up and over the rim. By the time it was finally under control, thousands of acres of valuable timber had been lost. Back at that time it was one of the largest fires in the state’s history.

        HUH! Does this sound familiar? It’s almost the exact same scenario as the Bighorn Fire.

        Regards,
        Fred M. Cain

  3. Fred makes some really good points .e.g.
    Why ? Climate change ,poor management or negligence ?[ Maybe /smoky the Bear passed away ?
    What –[what is happening–larger ,hotter ,etc. ]
    When [ why more fires now ;compared to the past ] .This is seen ,not just with the Bighorn fire but many others ?

  4. I was born and raised in North Tucson, left at 18. There didn’t seem to be any catastrophic fires in the Catalinas from 1950-1968. Not like this. This is such a great tragedy!!!

  5. As long as the agencies keep applying methods of fire prevention from other areas of the nation. Rather than fire prevention methods for the desert southwest fires will increase in intensity and size. Most forests in the southwest are not fire dependent as in other well watered areas. Fires in drought stricken mountains have to be put out immediately in the southwest. Especially during decade/s long drought. The lack of rangers watching for fire has impacted our forests greatly. The forests and public land need more employees rather than less.

  6. As Matt said previously there are many reasons why this fire is happening now, not the least of which is what we are calling climate change. As part of an interagency large fire management team (type 1) I spent 3 weeks in 2002 (Bullock Fire) and 3 weeks in 2003 (Aspen Fire) on Mt Lemmon fighting fire. On the Aspen Fire we spent more then a week fighting to save every house we could in Summerhaven, the wind would spring up in the middle of the night and burn up another block. The Catalinas have a lot of steep canyons full of vegetation, wind and low humidity would create fire storms that I have seen nowhere else, so I would say topography, weather, and sometimes just plain bad luck are the biggest factors in what is happening on Mt Lemmon now.
    In my 35 years fighting fires across the US for the US Forest Service I have learned that the forest will burn, its just a matter of when and how fast depending on weather and terrain, which also are the major factors in stopping a fire. Most of the large fires in the last 25 years have been started by humans.

  7. People who claim that there were never major fires on Lemmon back in the day of full suppression are very close to the point, but somehow still manage to miss it entirely. A history of full suppression has led precisely to the situation as we face it now.

  8. Pray for rain. Everybody reading this, ask all your friends, relatives, organizations either here in the Tucson area or elsewhere, pray that rain will soon fall on the Big Horn fire in southern Arizona. Pastors, ask your congregations. All religious leaders, ask your members. Republican leaders, Democrat leaders, Independents–please send out the call for prayer—soon—now. Pray for rain that will put out the Big Horn fire. Matthew 7 (Living Bible Paraphrased) : “Ask, and you will be given what you ask for.”

  9. Group,

    I would like to thank each and everyone of you who responded to my comments. You have addressed some of my concerns and answered some of my questions. It is my hope and prayer that somehow, someway, something can be learned from this disaster so that this just doesn’t keep happening over and over again. Since the year 2000 we have had the Bullock Fire, the Aspen Fire, The Burro Fire and now the Bighorn. This REALLY needs to stop. The forest will NEVER be able to fully regenerate until it stops.
    What hurts me the most is that so much of the forest was regenerating rather nicely after the Aspen Fire before the Bighorn fire hit.

    One gentleman took my comments as being too critical of the firefighters. I didn’t mean to sound that way but perhaps I did. If so, that was unintentional. But someone or something surely IS to blame. The first step in solving any problem is pin-pointing the cause or causes.

    So, what do we really have to look at? So far it’s “climate change”, invasive species and 150 years of fire suppression that allowed an immense build-up of fuels. Someone also mentioned influential people who pressure firefighters into spending too much of their resources defending structures instead of forest.
    In my own personal, honest and humble opinion NONE of these factors alone can be the complete explanation. However, perhaps they’ve been conspiring together to encourage the severe conflagrations.

    Take over-eager fire suppression and the build-up of fuels. If this were the complete and sole cause, then WHY did so much of the area hit by the Aspen Fire burn again? Were there too many ponderosa pine “dog hair” thickets that were left un-thinned? I have seen some photographs that suggest this.

    On “climate change”, I did something just for fun. There is a website available that shows Tucson’s annual rainfall stats going all the way back to the 1890s. So I tried doing some ten-year rolling averages. What I found was that although the drought which hit after the year 2000 was indeed exceptional, it was NOT historically unprecedented. There was a decade in the 1940s that was about as dry and possibly slightly dryer. However, there was a ten year period in the late 1890s and early 1900s that was much dryer. Tree ring studies also tend to suggest that before white, European settlers arrived in the area, there were even worse droughts. Climate change?

    So then I looked at temps. I found that on average Tucson was about 4°F warmer today than it was in the mid-1890s. That is disturbing but how much of that comes from the localized, “heat island” effect? I’m not sure anybody knows exactly for sure.

    Here’s what I’m hoping that state and federal forest managers could take a look at: What kinds of methods were used during the years from 1900 to 2000 in preventing small fires from turning into a huge mess like the Bighorn and Aspen fires? Whatever they were doing in those days worked. In Arizona, no small fire should ever be allowed to get out of control during the period from about late April to early or mid-July. I would guess that we cannot rely solely on high technology alone to accomplish this.

    We need good men and women with sharp eyes placed on fire lookouts all over the mountain. Are all those lookouts still staffed today? I’m not sure about that but I think they may have done away with some. If that’s the case, that’s not good and may have contributed to the problem.

    Then, during periods when the forest is damp, prescribed burns should be conducted. However, prudence needs to be exercised with controlled burns. A prescribed burn should NEVER be conducted in an area where small seedlings are beginning to establish themselves. That’s really kind of a no-brainer.

    Although the above are only my opinions, something really needs to be done here. Mount Lemmon just won’t be the same without its magnificent pine and “mixed conifer” forest. The forest WILL return but only if we get a handle on these huge fires.

    Just for fun, I would strongly like to recommend the book “Look to the Mountains” by Suzanne Henzel. If you “Google” for that book, you will surely find it. It’s a fun read and makes a good “coffee table” book as well.

    1. Fred said:
      “We need good men and women with sharp eyes placed on fire lookouts all over the mountain. Are all those lookouts still staffed today? I’m not sure about that but I think they may have done away with some. If that’s the case, that’s not good and may have contributed to the problem.”

      Fred,
      Lemmon Rock is staffed. Good Video of it https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pstcVVYCGr0
      Coronado NF Lookouts https://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/coronado/landmanagement/resourcemanagement/?cid=stelprdb5315379

    2. “Graze it, log it, or watch it burn”. A wise wild land firefighter told me. I believe it to be true. We’ve tried to conserve our forrests, but the unintended consequence is what we have been experiencing these past handful of years in the west. So heartbreaking. We love our National Forrests and National Parks to death!

      1. Marilyn,

        I see your point but I’m not sure I can completely agree. Logging operations are only profitable when mature timber is harvested. What really needs to be thinned is the small stuff. “Dog hair thickets” and stuff like that. That kind of thinning is actually an expense – not a profit making situation. So, where does the money come from? The U.S. Forest Service is badly underfunded which we have already mentioned and that really does need to change. As a taxpayer, I would be more than willing to pay higher taxes for parks and forests.

        As for grazing, I am of the inclination that cattle don’t belong in forests. They tend to do more damage than good. For one thing, they eat and trample seedlings. I personally helped some scouts replant a burn in the Prescott National Forests and returned ten years later to see how they were doing. Cattle had eaten them all! There were a couple of straggly, deformed survivors that steers were still chewing on but that’s it!

        So, there are places in the National Forests and National Grasslands where grazing might be O.K. but generally, more or less, I don’t like it very much.

        Regards,
        Fred M. Cain,
        Topeka, IN

  10. Alot of fires get caught in IA. Meanwhile the fuels build. Eventually one sparks at the right time and mother nature makes it burn. We are really good at stomping them out small, but eventually fuel, topography, and weather will align and it doesn’t matter how many resources you throw at it. Ive fought fire in the desert south and west of Phoneix back in 2005 for 30 days. Its a different experience for sure.

  11. I haven’t seen any updates regarding what things actually look like along the ridge from Willow Canyon over to Mt. Lemmon. The maps show the fire perimeter. That’s where most of the Ponderosa pine is located and most of the campgrounds and recreational areas. Will that even be worth visiting after this is over, or is all the timber going up in flames? I have a lot of great memories of times up there at camp in Rose Canyon, family outings in Bear Wallow and that area is ver scenic and beautiful. I hope they’re saving some of it.

    1. Lee,

      That is EXACTLY the same question that I’ve had. Most of these incident maps show a fire line running from the summit of Mount Lemmon, past the ski lodge then along the north side of the highway east of Summerhaven to Mount Bigelow. So far that line has mostly held and the fire has stayed out of Bear Wallow.

      Yesterday afternoon I saw a map that seemed to suggest that the fire may have crossed the highway on the north side of Summerhaven. That’s when I started to assume that Summerhaven was a goner. But I’m not sure how accurate those maps are. Unfortunately, Summerhaven is now surrounded by fire on three sides so if a big wind picks up from any of three directions it’s probably toast.

      There is one report out today that firefighters had a good night last night and the prospects for Summerhaven are looking up just a bit. We’ll see.

      See here:

      https://tucson.com/news/local/tucsons-bighorn-fire-a-good-day-in-the-fight-against-the-wildfire/article_33807e0a-b6f3-11ea-aa94-1f6c58b847b4.html

      Regards,
      Fred M. Cain,
      Topeka, IN

  12. Without anything further to offer on the “why,” or “how come” topics, I have only one remark.
    I am, and have been for years, of the opinion that Federal wildland suppression sources are shamefully underpaid. For the most part, when the season winds down and moisture arrives, the majority are laid off. Often times with little or no notice. I see this much like tossing a broken-handled Pulaski into a bin in the warehouse.
    These folks work like dogs and get tossed like a soiled fire shirt every season. If we can’t (won’t) staff at adequate levels and pay a salary commensurate with State & Local fire forces, then maybe it’s time to get out of the business at the Federal level. I don’t say this as a spectator. I had 36 years in the USFS, and remain ashamed how the Fire personnel are paid.

  13. Thank you Linda. I was getting ready to comment on why the sarcastic comment about the “elites”! What does she think a cabin built up on Mt Lemmon costs? Not $50.00 a sq ft🤣🤣 the firefighters have worked extremely hard to protect all properties! I could go on but it wouldn’t do any good
    Bobbie Jo

  14. Can anyone explain what ‘firing operations’ are? My daughter was spending the night at her friend’s house in Saddlebrooke Wednesday night and she said it looked like people were firing things that exploded into the canyon there.

    1. Firefighters will often choose a barrier which they believe they can hold the fire at, a road for example, and start igniting fire along that barrier in order to burn up vegetation between it and the main fire. For example, if the fire is advancing slowly down a mountain side towards a road in the valley, firefighters may conduct ‘firing operations’ along the road. When the two fires meet, the fire goes out because there is no longer anything available to burn.

      It sounds like your daughter may have seen firefighters using “very pistols” (which is just a fancy way of saying flare guns) to support an operation similar to what I described above. Since fire pulls air towards it, by using flares to ignite fire deeper in the vegetation it’s possible to create an indraft which will pull the fire ignited off a barrier like a road faster than if it were burning on its own without any other influences. This in turn builds a buffer against the main fire faster and can increase the chance of success in stopping the fire at that location.

  15. So, what’s new now? Has Summerhaven been saved? Does anybody know?
    If they made it through that wind yesterday and through the night, they might be over the hill.
    There might be some rain near the end of the week but heavy rain might be at least another week away. Air flow in the upper atmosphere is not cooperating.

    Regards,
    Fred M. Cain
    Topeka, IN

  16. One element that has not been discussed is the fact that the fire began in the Pusch Ridge Wilderness Area. Even though the wilderness area contains difficult topography, I have a feeling that we are not being told that the policy in an area like this–at least in part– is to “wait and see” until a fire threatens “values” such as property. After all, motorized machinery is not allowed inside the wilderness to do the things that would traditionally have been used in the past to fight fires—use dozers and other equipment to clear fire breaks, clear brush, etc. Again, I understand the difficult topography of the area and the winds and ongoing drought means that firefighting options are limited, but I believe that too often we are left with the impression that every available asset is being used to gain immediate suppression when in fact management principles based on land use status plays a far greater role than is admitted. This is important because in many cases we are spending more on fighting fires in many forests than the total budgets for the management of the forests themselves. There is going to be dramatic and extensive damage to the entire Santa Catalina range and the public deserves to be aware of how management decisions can affect the eventual outcome of the firefighting effort.

    1. Tim,

      You said that, “One element that has not been discussed is the fact that the fire began in the Pusch Ridge Wilderness Area”.

      Actually, I had made a comment about a week or so ago concerning fires in designated wilderness areas. I had been led to believe that a fire started by natural causes in either a designated wilderness area or on National Park land is allowed to burn. I had asked if this is actually official government policy or did I remember this wrong.

      I remember years and years ago I spotted smoke in the Rincon Mountains east of town and called in and reported it. I was told that the fire was burning inside the Saguaro National Monument (it wasn’t a park yet) and that the NPS policy is to allow it to burn.

      So, my question is, is that what happened here with the Bighorn Fire? Anecdotal evidence along with your comment and Jennifer’s comment suggest that perhaps that is exactly what happened. But, we still don’t know this for sure yet. However, it kinda seems to me like someone dropped the ball somewhere.

      Regards,
      Fred M. Cain,
      Topeka, IN

  17. My daughter has a coworker/friend. She told my daughter that she saw the lightning strike and a while later she saw smoke and fire. She called 911 and informed them that they had a fire and what she saw. The 911 operator said they would get on it. Well there was no response. The fourth call to 911 that this woman made she was told they were going to let it burn. I don’t know if this is a rumor or the person who told my daughter this was being truthful. I told my daughter to tell her to call the news channels about it, that hasn’t happened. This time of year you don’t allow a fire to burn! It’s hot, dry and windy! If it was during monsoon when the dew point is high and we are getting regular rains in the afternoons and the temperatures are lower then let it go but watch it carefully. So what happened? Most of the mountain burned down is what happened. Who ever made that decision is no different than a person that tossed a smoldering cigarette out the window! What a shame, what a crying shame. It would of taken maybe a couple of fly overs with fire retardant and water and it might of been 100 acres or more. But they say “It’s so expensive” Well how much has it cost so far? How much has it cost in the animals habitats that have been destroyed and the animals that have died because of it. Right…… Millions of dollars so far. I would like to know who the idiots who got their heads together and decided to let our mountain burn down. Weekend after next we were going to have an overnight camp out on the mountain for my grandsons fifth birthday. That’s not happening.

  18. They’ve closed all of the Coronado national forest area in the Catalinas until November 1. Right now only residents and business owners can get up there. The fire is almost out, but has burned 120,000 acres, which is virtually all over the whole mountain range and well down the slopes on the north side almost to Oracle and down the east side to Redington. Most of the Pusch Ridge wilderness and everything on the western slopes of the range from Catalina State Park up and over the ridge from Mt. Kimball down to the upper foothills and all the way over to Samaniego Ridge has been burned out completely. Those hiking trails will be completely new scenery as the brush, juniper and oak through there is gone. The whole northern side of the range from just below Mt. Lemmon, Mt. Bigelow and the highest ridge burned all the way to just south of Oracle. The upper band of ponderosa pine, fir and aspen from Willow Canyon over to Mt. Lemmon and the ski valley was, for the most part, saved along with all of the structures, picnic areas, cabins, camps and Summerhaven itself. There are some burn scars along the western and southern edge of that area, but from what I’ve heard, most of that was low intensity. That will be good for most people who go up there, but for those who loved hiking all over those mountains, it will never be the same. Perhaps the only hike that will be the same is the Marshall gulch and Aspen trail area, but that’s only a small part of what made those mountains so special. I love the Catalinas, can’t wait to get back up there someday.

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