Bighorn Fire sprawls across mountain range

View of the Bighorn Fire from Aerospace Parkway on June 22 with smoke filling the skies above the Santa Catalina Mountains.

Management of the Bighorn Fire north of Tucson shifted  Monday night, and Green Valley Fire District crew members continue to provide support.

The Southwest Area Incident Management Team will be taking a break after spending two weeks battling the sprawling blaze estimated to be 65,536 acres and 33% percent contained Tuesday morning.

Rocky Mountain Type 1 Incident Management Team from Colorado, led by Incident Commander Mike Goicoechea, will continue with the previous management plan in place with crews monitoring the fire on a number of fronts and  working to protect Summerhaven.

Protection and containment priorities Tuesday included Mt. Lemmon and Willow Canyon and the team is keeping a close eye on Samaniego Ridge on the northwest side of the mountain range.

Goicoechea said the southwestern portion of the mountain range was in good shape and crews continue to monitor the areas just north of Ventana Canyon and the fire as it moves through Sabino Canyon for any changes in its movement.

The change in management teams is a routine practice and gives the teams some time off before they head off to another assignment, according to Adam Jarrold, a public information officer.

GVFD continues its presence with eight personnel, an ambulance, a fire tender and a Type 3 fire engine on-site but will soon be getting a rest.

GVFD crew members are nearing the end of their 14-day stint and have been working 16-hour days, according to Operations Chief Joey Kosiorowski. He said the crew will get a mandatory two days off when the two-week commitment ends this week.

Kosiorowski was not sure if GVFD will continue to provide support after their stint ends and said it will be up to the new management team to determine the resources needed to continue fighting the fire.

Assessing damage

Tuesday afternoon, the Coronado National Forest announced it established a Burned Area Emergency Response team which will assess the impacts of the Bighorn and Emigrant fires to state, private and federal lands.

The BAER team is headed by Greg Kuyumjian, who also led the assessment after the 2003 Aspen Fire. The team will identify watersheds at increased risk for post-fire flooding, sediment flows and rock slides which will help land managers prepare for the upcoming monsoon rains, according to a press release.

The team will produce a report identifying any threats in the burned areas and then share those reports with other agencies that will work with neighboring landowners to prepare for any potential impacts.