SIERRA VISTA — The Bighorn Fire may be in Tucson but it’s taking crews from all over the country to contain and protect the area.
Multiple crews from Cochise County, including Fry Fire District, are assisting with the fire that has spread across 14,686 acres in the Santa Catalina Mountains. Chris Bernal, one of three Fry firefighters in Tucson, said they were told Tuesday morning the fire was 30 percent contained.
Fry Fire District Chief Mark Savage said the Type 3 Engine crew left Saturday to start helping on Sunday. Bernal told the Herald/Review Tuesday they were clearing areas around cabins that are at least 100 years old in case the fire moves closer to them. Bernal and his crewmates John Clark and Walter Webb are scheduled to be there until June 27, but could be released early or extended depending on the containment of the fire.
“The fire is still moving around,” Bernal said. “I’d be surprised if we left early.”
Concern for the fire isn’t the only worry for the 729 personnel who are fighting the fire as COVID-19 cases continue to climb in the state. Bernal said caution is being used and everyone is being encouraged to wash hands and shower as frequently as possible and socially distance from one another.
Bernal, who has been with Fry Fire District for 14 years, says he enjoys going out of the district because it builds camaraderie as firefighters from all over work toward a common goal.
“It’s a change from what we do,” he said. “We all come together to help. It’s nice to go out and help and get these fires contained.”
The Bighorn Fire was started by dry lightning late on June 5. Dry lightning is the concern for local fire departments as the state is in the peak of its fire season. Savage said the county is at high to extreme risk for fires and the state is at a level 3 on the preparedness scale.
“The higher the risk the more prepared the state wants to be,” Savage said.
Because of the lack of moisture, grass and brush can catch on easier than after consistent rainfall. Savage said the rain the area experienced on Monday wasn’t enough to lower the fire risk in the area.
Community members can help limit the number of brush fires by not driving in grass or with dangling chains, which can spark on the roads. Smokers should make sure their cigarettes are fully put out before disposing them as lit ashes could ignite dry grass.
Savage recommends those who live in more remote areas to keep grass and bushes trimmed and wet to help prevent fires.
“We see a seasonal shift,” Savage said. “In the summer we see more outdoor fires, and in the winter we see more residential fires.”
For more information about fire risk evaluation plans and to sign up for emergency notifications, visit the Cochise County website.