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High winds pose challenge on containment in Bighorn Fire

(Josh Galemore/Arizona Daily Star via AP, File)

PHOENIX – High winds are posing a challenge to fire crews working to contain the Bighorn Fire burning in the Catalina Mountains near Tucson.

The fire has grown to 107,099 acres and remains 45% contained, but Red Flag warnings are expected throughout Monday when winds are expected to range from 35 to 40 mph.

More than 1,080 personnel are working to keep the blaze from heading south towards homes. High winds could hinder their efforts and limit aircraft assistance.

“The weather service is providing us this could be one of the windiest days in the Tucson area in a few years and we’re prepared for that,” officials said in a briefing Monday.

The fire was sparked by a lightning strike in the Coronado National Forest on June 5.

The Bighorn Fire is threatening to pass the Willow Fire (120,000 acres) and the Woodbury Fire (124,000 acres), which rank as the sixth and seventh largest fires in Arizona state history.

On Sunday night, the Pima County Sheriff’s Department issued an evacuation for the southern Catalinas bordered by Mount. Lemmon Highway.

“Go” stage evacuations had already been issued for Redington, the east slope of the Catalina Mountains, Mount Lemmon, Summerhaven, Mount Bigelow and to Lower Catalina Highway and lower Mount Lemmon communities from Organization Ridge Road to South Willow Canyon.

The “Go” stage calls for an immediate evacuation due to current life-threatening danger.

Parts of the southern Catalina Foothills near the forest service boundary are in the “Set” stage of evacuations, which calls for residents to be aware of danger.

On Sunday morning, evacuations were lifted for parts of the Ventana Canyon Estates and parts north of Catalina State Park from Hawser Street to the north, Lago Del Oro Parkway to the west and the forest service boundary to the east.

The area had been downgraded from the Set stage to the Ready stage of the Ready, Set, Go! emergency action plan.

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Jim Cross contributed to this report.

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