Monday, June 15, 2020

Bighorn Fire Continues Toward Mt. Lemmon, Catalina Evacuation Lifted

Posted By on Mon, Jun 15, 2020 at 4:36 PM

Courtesy Southwest Area Incident Management Team
The Bighorn Fire is now approximately 14,600 acres and is 22 percent contained. While fire crews have been successful in keeping the blaze from foothills homes, the fire is now progressing northeast and threatens the community of Summerhaven on Mount Lemmon.
The Pima County Sheriff's Department announced that Mount Lemmon residents should remain "set" to evacuate under the Ready, Set, Go system.

Catalina Highway remains closed, with only business owners and residents allowed on the highway.
According to the Pima County Office of Emergency Management, portions of the Catalina area near Catalina State Park, which were previously evacuated, have now been downgraded to the "set" stage. Residents in the affected areas may return to their homes. The general boundaries of the zone are the forest service boundary on the south and east. Southerland Trail on the west, and Rollins Road on the north.

Rocky Gilbert, a operations section chief for the Southeast Incident Management Team, said firefighters would be in the Summerhaven area to review existing breaks and would set up a camp at Rose Canyon Lake.

“The biggest challenge for us is where this fire is located. It’s very rough country, and getting people up there is unsafe, and if they get injured, there’s no easy way to get them out," said wildfire operations chief Todd Abel in a meeting with the Pima County Sheriff's Department on June 11.

Abel says the nighttime humidity surrounding this fire reaches around 10 percent, much lower than the possible 25 percent this time of year, which has contributed to the fire’s growth during the night.

The gusts have also battered the columns of smoke rising above the Catalinas in different directions, often with multiple changes in the same day. The shifting plumes were so much that the Pima County Department of Environmental Quality issued an air quality health watch on June 11, warning of elevated levels of particulate matter and ground-level ozone in the areas near the fire and beyond. For multiple days, the smoke spiraled through the Tucson sky, and PDEQ warned children, older adults and those with heart or lung disease to be cautious and understand that "if they can smell smoke, they are breathing smoke."

Fire crews also remind the public that drones are prohibited over fire areas, as firefighting aircraft are busy and must be grounded in drones' presence. According to the National Forest Service, on June 8, a drone was observed over the Bighorn Fire’s southern perimeter, which "forced the aircraft suppression effort to be halted, endangering the lives of on the ground firefighters and the aircrews at a critical time during the height of the burning period."

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