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Massive Bighorn Fire in Arizona appears to be running out of fuel

by Kelly Presnell, Arizona Daily Star (Tucson) |

TUCSON, Ariz. – While the portion of Tucson's Bighorn Fire that's moving along Ventana Canyon is getting the most attention from residents and onlookers from across the city, it's moving where firefighters want it to go.

That section of the wildfire is moving into desert terrain. There, the fire will have less vegetation to burn, face established fire lines and firefighters who will be on terrain that will make fighting the fire easier, said Travis Mabery, of the Southwest Incident Management Team, in a news briefing Sunday morning updating progress made fighting the blaze sparked by lighting June 5.

"It kind of ran out of some fuels," Mabery said of that portion of the wildfire that has left a nightly glow of orange flames that can be seen across the city each night. "It got into that Sonoran desert ecosystem. It just doesn't have the ability to continue to back through there."

He said the same thing is happening in the Esperero Canyon area.

Wind could be a problem today for crews fighting the fire around Romero and Sabino canyons, Mabery said. While the fire could come down toward those areas and a windy day could be "a little bit of a disadvantage for us," Mabery said.

However, he added that fire lines and fire retardant there should hold the fire back. There could be a lot of smoke visible in those areas today because back burning might be needed, he said.

Mabery said crews are "in front" of the fire along the Catalina Highway. "We feel the fire in that area that might want to come up is not a factor for us today."

On the north side of the fire, Mabery said crews had a successful effort Saturday fighting the blaze in area that can be seen around Oracle and San Manuel. He said crews have been successful in backing the fire away from those communities.

The portion of the wildfire seen from SaddleBrooke is moving down to an area where it will be easier for crews on the ground to fight it. "We're happy with how it's coming down," he said. That area also is expected to be especially smokey today.

Fire operations are expected to continue overnight, he said.

The Bighorn Fire has grown to about 52,000 acres. There are about 900 people fighting the wildfire and it is about 19 percent contained, the Forest Service said Sunday morning.

More than 2,000 firefighters were battling the three major wildfires burning Saturday in forested mountains and desert hills in national forests across Arizona, the Associated Press reported.

Along with the Bighorn Fire here, crews were fighting blazes in the Tonto National Forest northeast of metro Phoenix and in the Kaibab National Forest north of the Grand Canyon.

A new wildfire that started Saturday about 4 miles northeast of New River on the northern outskirts of metro Phoenix was being fought by ground crews and aircraft to prevent it from reaching structures, state and federal officials said in statements.

The new fire had burned nearly half a square mile after starting on state land and spreading into the Tonto National Forest, officials said Saturday.