Crews Make Varying Degrees of Headway in Arizona Wildfires

June 24, 2020

PHOENIX — Hundreds of firefighters made some progress Monday against major wildfires across Arizona.

Crews were fighting fires in the Santa Catalina Mountains in the Coronado National Forest overlooking Tucson, in the Tonto National Forest northeast of metro Phoenix, the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in northeast Arizona and in the Kaibab National Forest north of the Grand Canyon.

Authorities said the human-caused Bush Fire outside of metro Phoenix was 42% contained as of Monday after charring 291 square miles (754 kilometers) since it started June 13 in the Tonto National Forest.

The lightning-caused Bighorn Fire is 91 square miles (236 square kilometers), burning in canyons and on ridges in the Santa Catalina Mountains and hovering around 16% containment. But fire officials said the blaze diminished as it reached vegetation at the base of Ventana Canyon.

Meanwhile, authorities said the lightning-caused Bringham Fire was 20% contained after burning 33 square miles (85 square kilometers) in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest north of Morenci. That blaze continues to burn in steep, inaccessible areas.

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey traveled to the Tucson area Monday to get a briefing from fire officials overseeing the fight and from law enforcement agencies charged with evacuating resort communities in the mountains near Tucson.

Ducey praised firefighters and promised to make sure whatever resources needed to protect people and property in and around Tucson will be brought to bear.

“But this fire is going to be put out _ and the one resource we’re going to need in addition to the brave women and men that are fighting this fire is mother nature,” Ducey said. “The monsoon is going to be here, we’re going to have some precipitation. We’re going to contain this and protect the assets that are on the ground and we’ll get through this.”

Communities near Mt. Lemmon, including Summerhaven, remain under evacuation orders and Pima County Sheriff Mark Napier urged residents to heed those “Go” orders.

“Because if you are in a ”Go” area, and we ask you to evacuate and you refuse to evacuate, we may not be able to come back in there and save you,” Napier said.

Napier also praised firefighters, saying they had successfully protected people and property from the blaze.

“This fire is nearly 60,000 acres, it’s been burning for more than two weeks, it’s less than 20% contained, and as of right now we haven’t lost a single structure,” Napier said. “That is amazing.”

In northern Arizona, improved weather conditions allowed firefighters to protect critical areas from the Mangum Fire burning in the Kaibab National Forest.

The blaze was 28% contained Monday at 108 square miles (280 square kilometers) with its June 8 cause still under investigation. It has forced the closure of the North Rim of the Grand Canyon National Park until further notice.

About the photo: A stiff wind out of the southwest pushes the Bighorn Fire into the central Santa Catalina Mountains as seen from Oro Valley, Ariz., Saturday, June 13, 2020. The fire has grown and is now threatening Mt. Lemmon and the town of Summerhaven, Ariz. (Kelly Presnell/Arizona Daily Star via AP)

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