Central Fire spreads east from New River, AZ

Central fire mapped Sunday night at 4,517 acres

(UPDATED at 11:40 a.m. MDT June 22, 2020)

Central Fire Bush Bighorn Arizona wildfire map
3-D map showing the Central Fire which was mapped at 12:08 a.m. MDT June 22, 2020. The Bush and Bighorn Fires can be seen in the distance.

The Central Fire just east of New River, Arizona spread to the east Sunday to the top of New River Mesa, growing to 4,517 acres according to a mapping flight at 12:08 a.m Monday.

At a virtual community meeting Sunday night Ralph Lucas, the Operations Section Chief of Alan Sinclair’s Type 1 incident management team running both the Central and Bush Fires, said he did not expect the Central Fire to grow much more:

But when I last spoke to the Incident Commander on the Central Fire, he was confident with what they had going on, and thinks that we might be able to get around this thing and not see a drastic increase in acreage, but only time will tell depending on the weather and the wind.

Skycrane “Isabelle” N178AC, a Sikorsky S-64F fire wildfire
Skycrane “Isabelle” N178AC, a Sikorsky S-64F from Erickson Incorporated fills her 2,500 gallon tank at the Rancho Manana Golf Club while fighting the nearby Central Fire burning in the Tonto National Forest near New River, AZ on June 21, 2020. Photo by John Hall.


(Originally published at 12:47 p.m. MDT June 21, 2020)

DC-10 air tanker Central Fire
Air Tanker 914, a DC-10, drops retardant on the Central Fire, June 20, 2020. Photo by JDH Images.

Eleven months ago firefighters battled a wildfire north of Phoenix about 35 miles north of Phoenix, 4 miles east of Interstate 17. There was confusion about the name of the fire, switching from Central to Daisy and back to Central.

Saturday the same thing happened in the same location. A fire started in the footprint of the 2019 Central Fire. The name changed from Central to Daisy and back to Central.

Central Fire Arizona Phoenix
Red dots represent heat on the June 20, 2020 Central Fire detected by a satellite at 3:21 p.m. MDT June 20, 2020. Retardant from the July 20, 2019 Central Fire is visible in the background satellite photo taken August 12, 2019.

In the satellite photo above taken August 12, 2019, 23 days after the first Central Fire, you can make out retardant which was dropped by air tankers. Within those retardant lines are superimposed red dots representing heat on the June 20, 2020 Central Fire detected by a satellite at 3:21 p.m. MDT June 20, 2020.

Last year’s Central Fire burned between 503 and 800 acres.

Central Fire information Arizona

The Southwest Coordination Center lists the current Central Fire at 2,000 acres. Since the Saturday afternoon overflight, satellites have not been able to detect any large heat sources on the fire, but it is likely burning, or was burning, in light fuels such as grass, and cooled quickly between overflights.

Last year we made the map below:

Map Arizona location Central Fire
Map showing the location of the Central Fire 35 miles north of Phoenix at 3:21 p.m. MDT July 20, 2019.

The Incident Management Team on the Bush Fire northeast of Phoenix is managing the Central Fire.

The Bush Fire grew Saturday by 9,171 acres to bring the total up to 184,531 acres. Firefighters have had success in recent days stopping the spread at Highways 87 and 188. They are closely watching the south side as it backs slowly downhill through light vegetation to Apache Lake and the Salt River.

Central and Bush Fires Phoenix
The Central and Bush Fires in the Phoenix Area, June 21, 2020.

Forecast for wildfire smoke, June 20, 2020

Forecast for the distribution of smoke from wildfires Saturday evening

Forecast for wildfire smoke
Forecast for the distribution of smoke from wildfires at 7 p.m. MDT June 20, 2020. NOAA HRRR-Smoke

The forecast for the distribution of smoke from wildfires at 7 p.m. MDT Saturday looks rather bleak for areas of Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and Oklahoma.

Bighorn Fire north of Tucson grows to 42,798 acres

Firefighters have been conducting back burns out ahead of the fire

(Originally published at 10:09 a.m. MDT June 20, 2020)

3-D map of the Bighorn Fire
3-D map of the Bighorn Fire looking southeast at 10:12 pm MDT June 19, 2020.

The Bighorn Fire north of Tucson, Arizona grew by 5,740 acres Friday to bring the total up to 42,798 acres.

Firefighters have been conducting back burns out ahead of the fire which they hope will serve as barriers to fire spread south of the community of Oracle along Old Mount Lemmon Highway near Peppersauce. They have also been constructing firelines on the west side of the Catalina Highway.

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

For information about evacuations in Pima County contact visit pima.gov/bighorn. In Pinal County check the Sheriff’s Office Facebook page.

Map of the Bighorn Fire
Map of the Bighorn Fire. by the Incident Management Team, June 20, 2020.

The map below shows the growth of the Bighorn Fire over a 24-hour period.

Bighorn Fire Map
The red line was the perimeter of the Bighorn Fire detected by a mapping flight at 10:12 p.m. MDT June 19. The yellow line was the perimeter about 24 hours before.

Firefighting resources assigned to the fire include 20 hand crews, 64 engines, 18 water tenders, 6 dozers, and 7 helicopters for a total of 894 personnel.

Bighorn Fire Tanker 910, a DC-10
Tanker 910, a DC-10 operated by 10 Tanker Air Carrier drops on the Bighorn Fire. N612AX. Ned Harris photo.

Firefighters making progress on the Bush Fire east of Phoenix

The fire has grown to 184,086 acres

(UPDATED at 4:50 p.m. MDT June 22, 2020)

Firefighters are starting to get a pretty good handle on the Bush Fire. The perimeter has not changed in a couple of days and any smoke seen is from previously unburned interior islands or firefighters cleaning up the edges by burnout out to remove fuel that is new the firelines. The latest mapping shows it has burned 184,086 acres.

The Central Fire north of Phoenix east of New River, Arizona spread to the east Sunday to the top of New River Mesa, growing to 4,517 acres according to a mapping flight at 12:08 a.m Monday. More information about that fire is on Wildfire Today.

Central Fire Bush Bighorn Arizona wildfire map
3-D map showing the Central Fire which was mapped at 12:08 a.m. MDT June 22, 2020. The Bush and Bighorn Fires can be seen in the distance.
Air Tanker 914 DC-10 drops retardant Central Fire Arizona Phoenix
Air Tanker 914, a DC-10, drops retardant on the Central Fire, June 20, 2020. Photo by JDH Images.

More photos of the DC-10 on the Central Fire.


(UPDATED at 11:13 a.m. MDT June 20, 2020)

map Bush Fire Arizona Phoenix wildfire
The red line was the perimeter of the Bush Fire detected by a mapping flight at 11:33 p.m. MDT June 19. The green line was the perimeter about 24 hours before.

Firefighters on Friday made more progress in tying in the east edge of the Bush Fire along Highway 188 north of Theodore Roosevelt Lake. On Saturday they will be burning along the SR 87 / Beeline Highway to create a buffer for fire backing downslope from the top of Mount Ord. Firefighters are using aerial ignition from helicopters to help slowly back the fire downslope to minimize post-fire impacts in the area.

A fixed wing mapping flight Friday night at 11:33 MDT determined that the fire had burned 174,397 acres, a 24-hour increase of 23,397 acres.

For all articles on Wildfire Today about the Bush Fire northeast of Phoenix including the most recent, click here.

map Bush Fire Arizona Phoenix wildfire
Vicinity map of the Bush Fire east of Phoenix. The red line was the perimeter detected by a mapping flight at 11:33 p.m. MDT June 19. The green line was the perimeter about 24 hours before.

On the southeast side, smoke will also be visible as the fire continues to burn a large pocket of unburned vegetation within the fire’s interior.

Dee Hines, an Information Officer for the Bush Fire, said firefighters are allowing the south edge of the fire north of Apache Lake and the Salt River to naturally back slowly down the hill. Mr. Hines described the terrain as steep, rough, and rocky and the fire behavior as “creeping”.

The wind has moderated over the last couple of days, allowing firefighters to make significant progress on the huge fire. That trend is expected to continue through Tuesday with daytime breezes out of the southwest or west at 5 to 10 mph. But it being the desert, temperatures will be over 100 degrees in the lower elevations with relative humidity in the single digits. And there’s no chance of rain.

Areas that remain under “Go” evacuation notices include Brownsville, Jake’s Corner, Slate Creek, Pioneer Pass, Tonto Basin, Punkin Center, Sunflower, and residents and visitors to Apache Lake.

Firefighting resources assigned to the fire include 19 hand crews, 41 engines, 5 bulldozers, 19 water tenders, and 7 helicopters for a total of 759 personnel.


(Originally published at 8:58 a.m. MDT June 19, 2020)

Bush Fire map June 19, 2020 wildfire Arizona Phoenix Jakes Corner
The red line was the perimeter of the Bush Fire detected by a mapping flight at 11:18 p.m. MDT June 18. The yellow line was the perimeter detected by a mapping flight at 11:49 p.m. MDT June 17. The red dots represent heat detected by a satellite at 3:24 a.m. MDT June 19.

Over the last few days firefighters on the Bush Fire have dropped back to Highway 188 and initiated backfire and burnout tactics. After the fire made a run several days ago spreading rapidly downhill almost reaching the highway, they began using fire to remove the fuel near the highway allowing the flames to move up and merge with the main fire.

Judging from imagery collected by a fixed wing mapping aircraft and later a satellite at 3:24 a.m. Friday, it appears that they are close to completing that mission, a limited mission, of stopping the portion of the fire along Highway 188 on the east side of the fire. After they get it completely fired out along the highway, then they will need to hold those 28 miles of fireline between Jakes Corner (at the intersection of Highway 188 and 87) and the Lake Theodore Roosevelt dam.

Firefighters will still have two other large sections of the fire to secure: the 15 miles of Highway 87 south of Jakes Corner to Sunflower, and approximately 20 miles along the Salt River and Apache Lake on the south side. If the weather cooperates the piece north of Sunflower should not be very difficult to fire out after the east side is taken care of. The area along the river is very rugged and difficult to access, and there is a chance the fire could ignite spot fires across the river, which would be a whole new ball game in difficult country. The fire has been very active five miles west of Roosevelt near the river.

The fire is 12 miles south of Payson, 17 miles northeast of Mesa, and 28 miles northwest of Globe.

Thursday the fire grew by another 36,134 acres to bring the total up to 151,075 acres according to data collected on the 11:18 p.m. MDT June 18 mapping flight. The firing operations on the north side will add thousands more.

Helicopter drop Bush Fire wildfire Arizona
Helicopter drop on the Bush Fire June 18, 2020. InciWeb photo.

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.

Firefighters battling the “Bush Fire” on both sides of the Mazatzal Mountains

The fire moved across the iconic Four Peaks and has now burned 114,941 acres

(UPDATED at 8:13 a.m. MDT June 18, 2020)

Bush Fire Vicinity Map
Vicinity map for the Bush Fire, 11:49 p.m. MDT June 17, 2020.

Firefighters on the Bush Fire northeast of Phoenix are fighting fire with fire, removing fuel ahead of the blaze by firing out to keep it from crossing highways and destroying structures.

Wednesday night firing operations were conducted south of Sunflower near Highway 87, near the fire lookout and communication facilities on Mt. Ord (2 miles north of the fire), and along Highway 188 south of Tonto Basin and Punkin Center. Fire is now established along approximately 10 miles of the west side of Highway 188.

For all articles on Wildfire Today about the Bush Fire northeast of Phoenix including the most recent, click here.

About 10 miles north of the fire fire officials are preparing areas around Jake’s Corner near the intersection of Highways 188 and 87 for burning out in order to protect structures.

Bush Fire Map 254 am MDT June 18, 2020
The red line was the perimeter of the Bush Fire detected by a mapping flight at 11:49 p.m. MDT June 17. The yellow line was the perimeter detected by a mapping flight at 11:12 p.m. MDT June 16. The red dots represent heat detected by a satellite at 2:54 a.m. MDT June 18.

A fixed wing mapping flight at 11:49 p.m. Wednesday night determined that the Bush Fire had burned 114,941 acres, an increase of over 25,000 acres in 24 hours.


(UPDATED at 7:21 p.m. MDT June 17, 2020)

Bush Fire map Phoenix
The red line was the perimeter of the Bush Fire detected by a mapping flight at 11:12 p.m. MDT June 16. The yellow line was the perimeter detected by a mapping flight at 12:45 a.m. MDT June 16. The orange and red dots represent heat detected by a satellite on June 17.

The Bush Fire east of Phoenix has been very active on Wednesday, chewing up more vegetation on the north, east, and south sides.

Between the time of the fixed wing mapping flight at 11:46 p.m. MDT June 16 and a satellite overflight at 2:30 p.m. June 17 the northernmost point of the blaze moved about three miles to the north-northeast, roughly parallel to Highway 87. During that same time frame the east side spread down the east side of Four Peaks and reached Highway 188. At 2:30 there was fire along approximately four miles of the highway at the north end of Theodore Roosevelt Lake four miles south of Tonto Basin. It is likely that firefighters helped tie in the fire with the highway by burning out, a tactic intended to remove the fuel ahead of the main fire in order to check its spread, preventing it from crossing the road.

Late Wednesday afternoon several large air tankers and helicopters were working on the south side of the fire west of Apache Lake north of the Salt River. This is most likely an attempt to keep the fire from crossing the river and moving into the Tortilla Flat area along Highway 88. If it does cross the river putting this huge fire out becomes much more complicated.

A Type 2 Incident Management Team has been managing the fire, but Wednesday afternoon the Southwest Coordination Center announced that a higher level team, a Type 1 Team, has been ordered with Alan Sinclair as Incident Commander. It has been unusual to have the lesser qualified team on this very large fire for this long as it approaches megafire status, 100,000 acres. Typically in a situation like this the incoming team will not assume command until Thursday or possibly even Friday, depending on how quickly they assemble (except those working remotely) and transition with the existing team members.


(Originally published at 10:07 a.m. MDT June 17, 2020)

Map of the Bush Fire
3-D map of the Bush Fire at 3 a.m. MDT June 17, 2020 (the red line and red areas). The yellow line was the perimeter about 24 hour before. Data from USFS mapping flight and NASA satellites.

The “Bush Fire” east of Phoenix was very active again Tuesday and Tuesday night, spreading to the south, north, and east, moving across the iconic Four Peaks.

The fire spread aggressively north on the east side of Highway 87 to Boulder Pass coming to within two miles of the community of Sunflower.

For all articles on Wildfire Today about the Bush Fire northeast of Phoenix including the most recent, click here.

After a fixed wing aircraft mapping flight at 11:12 p.m. MDT June 16, a satellite overflight at 3 a.m. MDT June 17 revealed that the fire continued to move to the north and east. During that four-hour period satellite data showed that it spread two miles downhill almost reaching Highway 188 at the north end of Theodore Roosevelt Lake.

Map of the Bush Fire
Map of the Bush Fire at 3 a.m. MDT June 17, 2020 (red line and red area). The yellow line was the perimeter about 24 hour before. Data from USFS mapping flight and NASA satellites.

A Type 2 Incident Management team lead by Incident Commander Mark Bernal is managing the fire which was mapped Tuesday night at 89,058 acres.

Resources assigned to the fire according to the National Situation Report include 14 hand crews, 26 engines, and no helicopters for a total of 541 personnel.

There are no reports of structures being destroyed. Sections of Highways 87, 88, and 188 are closed due to the fire.

Information about evacuations that are in effect can be found at the official Facebook page for the fire.

The weather forecast for the fire area on Wednesday predicts 99 degrees, 8 percent relative humidity, and winds out of the south switching to the southwest in the afternoon at 13 mph gusting to 20 mph.

Bush fire size Arizona