Navajo-Hopi Nations,Flagstaff & Winslow News
Sun, Sept. 20

Massive wildfires burn around Arizona, force evacuations

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

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

PHOENIX (AP) — Firefighters across Arizona were working to gain ground June 15 against massive wildfires that led to surrounding communities evacuating.

In the foothills and mountains outside of Tucson, the so-called Bighorn Fire spread to higher elevations overnight. The 23-square-mile blaze is only 22 percent contained, fire officials said. It's now burning heavier fuels, which crews say will lead to denser smoke.

Some of the roughly 630 personnel working on that blaze will focus on strengthening fire lines on Mt. Lemmon. Others will be on the blaze's north edge toward the town of Oro Valley looking for possible containment areas.

Crews are trying to keep the fire at bay from the areas of East Golder Ranch and Ventana Canyon. The Pima County Sheriff's Office on Sunday allowed residents who had been evacuated from the area of East Golder Ranch Drive and East Rollins Road to return. But they are urged to stay vigilant in case evacuations are enforced again.

Three people have been treated for minor heat-related illness, the U.S. Forest Service said.

The lightning-caused fire started June 5. It is burning in the Santa Catalina Mountains in the Coronado National Forest.

Meanwhile, fire crews believe a community in Arizona's high country is in less danger from a blaze in the Kaibab National Forest.

photo

Above: Extreme fire behavior on the Mangum Fire June 12 produces a large smoke column. Below: A smoke column as seen from the Fredonia High School in Fredonia, Arizona. (Photos/U.S. Forest Service, Kaibab National Forest)

The Mangum Fire, which was 39 square miles, is 2 percent contained and about 9 miles southwest of Jacob Lake. On June 14,the wildfire spread north toward Mangum Springs burning grass, brush, pinon and juniper.

The cause of the blaze remains under investigation.

In central Arizona, about 40 miles east of Phoenix, a wildfire has forced residents in the communities of Tonto Basin and Punkin Center to evacuate their homes. The American Red Cross has set up a shelter at Lee Kornegay School in Miami, according to emergency management in Gila County.

The fire has closed the area around Beeline Highway and Bush Highway.

The so-called Bush Fire, as of June 15, was 22 square miles with zero containment. It has been burning mostly tall grass and brush in the Tonto National Forest near the Four Peaks Wilderness Area. More than 300 personnel are working on the fire.

It was first reported June 13 and investigators say it appears to be human caused.

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