All but four of the Kitt Peak Observatory structures have so far survived the Contreras Fire

In southern Arizona

Contreras Fire 3-D map, north end, June 18, 2022
Contreras Fire 3-D map, north end, June 18, 2022.

Firefighters have made progress on the Contreras Fire in Southern Arizona.

It started from a lightning strike on June 11 and is being managed by a Type 2 Eastern Area Incident Management Team led by Incident Commander Brian Pisarek. It is 20 miles north of the US/Mexico border 16 miles east of Sells, AZ. Sunday morning the team said it had burned 18,843 acres.

To see all of the articles on Wildfire Today about the Contreras Fire, including the most recent, click HERE.

A statement Sunday afternoon from the Kitt Peak National Observatory said that while they are not out of danger, the situation is improving. All of the telescope domes are still standing but four non-scientific structures (dormitories and other support buildings) were destroyed on the morning of June 17. Astronomical facilities and instrumentation appear intact, but assessments of damage to equipment will only begin once conditions allow for safe entry into the area.

Contreras Fire, north end, June 18, 2022
Map of the north end of the Contreras Fire. The red line was the perimeter at the end of the day on June 18, 2022. The white line was the perimeter about 24 hours before.

Because of reduced fire activity on the south and east sides, some of the firefighting resources in those areas are being moved north to Kitt Peak to assist with ongoing fire suppression northeast of the observatories.

The incident management team intends to monitor, using hand crews and engines, the north side of the fire along Highway 86, toward the Pan Tak and Cowtown communities. The fire staff is working on a structure protection plan for these communities. The western perimeter of the fire is being allowed to burn down the slope into what the team described as more advantageous terrain that will allow crews to safely engage the fire.

Conteras Fire, June 18, 2022
Contreras Fire, June 18, 2022. Photo via Kitt Peak National Observatory.

Over the last two days clouds and higher humidities have moderated the fire behavior, but Sunday afternoon the cloud cover decreased and the fire became more active as the humidity dropped to 23 percent with 13 mph winds gusting to 30 mph out of the southwest.

The photos below are courtesy of Catherine Sienko, a professional photographer from the area.

Conteras Fire, 2:30 p.m. June 17, 2022
Contreras Fire, 2:30 p.m. June 17, 2022. Catherine Sienko.
Conteras Fire, June 17, 2022. Catherine Sienko.
Contreras Fire, June 17, 2022. Catherine Sienko.

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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.