Crews Battle Arizona Wildfires on Several Fronts in Extreme Heat

June 15, 2020

Crews took advantage of cooler temperatures overnight to complete a burnout in advance of a wildfire to stop it from reaching homes near mountains adjoining metro Tucson, fire management officials said Saturday.

The burnout of vegetation to deprive the fire of fuel was conducted to connect with lines cleared by firefighters along washes and off-road vehicle trails, officials said.

The fire, which lightning started on June 5, increased to 16 square miles (41 square kilometers) as of Saturday and was contained around only 10% of its perimeter in the Santa Catalina Mountains in the Coronado National Forest.

Hampered by rugged terrain and triple-digit temperatures, 550 firefighters and other personnel were assigned to the fire, supported by aircraft dropping water and retardant.

On another front of the same fire, crews were working to stop flames from spreading deeper into mountains where the community of Summerhaven sits atop Mt. Lemmon.

Crews also worked to secure the fire’s southern flank overlooking Tucson, where residents of 350 under a voluntary evacuation notice were told Friday night they could return but needed to remain vigilant.

An evacuation notice was issued Friday night for about 80 homes in an area west of the fire, and neighborhoods in areas near the forest remained on alert status for potential evacuation.

No structures have been reported damaged. Fire managers report three minor injuries related to heat.

In northern Arizona, Grand Canyon National Park officials said the North Rim remained closed due to a wildfire in part of the Kaibab National Forest.

An evacuation notice was issued Friday for the hamlet of Jacob Lake at a highway junction serving the North Rim.

Authorities began evacuating Jacob Lake after winds pushed the fire forward about 10 miles (16 kilometers), blowing embers that ignited spot fires ahead of the main fire and breaching control lines, officials said Saturday.

Crews overnight conducted burnouts on sides of the fire to deprive of it fuel and cleared defensive areas around structures in Jacob Lake, which includes campgrounds and an inn with a gas station, officials said.

U.S. Highway 89A in the area was closed because of the fire, which as of Saturday had burned 17 square miles and was contained around only 2% of its perimeter, officials said.

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