The lightning-ignited Deer Head Fire continues to burn in the Rincon Mountains, but it’s an area the park service planned to burn anyway.
As of Saturday morning, the wildfire had consumed 135 acres in the steep, rugged terrain of the Saguaro Wilderness, Andy Fisher, spokeswoman for Saguaro National Park, said in a news release. The fire is burning at an elevation over 7,500 feet in the ponderosa pine and oak woodlands.
The fire is staying low to the ground and producing relatively little smoke.
“Weather forecasts are for increased chances of showers and humidity, which should help to keep the fire on the ground and reducing the fuel load in an area that was scheduled for a prescribed burn later this summer,” Fisher said in an email Saturday afternoon.
“Lightning-ignited fires are important in maintaining healthy forests in the mountains of southern Arizona,” Fisher said. “Fire historically burned through the high elevation ponderosa pine forests of southeastern Arizona every few years, but past fire suppression has created unnatural conditions with a build-up of downed trees and dense underbrush in many places. Periodic low- to moderate-intensity wildfire helps prevent large, intense wildfires, recycles nutrients, and fills many other roles.”
The fire had expanded slightly east and away from the historic Manning Camp and is burning about a mile from Manning Cabin. Seven firefighters were flown to the cabin by helicopter Friday, and seven additional firefighters and support staff were transported to the area Saturday afternoon in case the fire threatens any historic structures or Mexican spotted owl habitat.
The Deer Head Fire was first detected late Thursday morning. The area has burned six times since the 1940s, most recently during the 1994 Rincon Fire.
Temporary closures within Saguaro National Park East
For the safety of hikers and campers, park officials have temporarily closed the following areas and trails:
— Italian Spring (south of the park boundary)
— Cowhead Saddle
— North Slope
— Fire Loop
— Spud Rock
— Mica Mountain
— Mica Meadow
— Devils Bathtub
— East Slope Trail
— Deerhead Spring
— Turkey Creek (west of the park boundary)
— Miller Creek (west of the park boundary)
— Heartbreak Ridge
— Manning Camp (east of the Douglas Springs intersection)
Closures include a segment of the Arizona Trail — Italian Spring Trail at the park boundary extending to the Douglas Spring-Manning Camp Trail intersection.
Campground closures within the park include: Manning Camp, Grass Shack, Happy Valley and Spud Rock.
All off-trail areas within Saguaro National Park east of Douglas Spring Trail and Manning Camp Trails are also closed.