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High winds move Bighorn Fire within 10 miles of Summerhaven, Ski Valley on Tuesday
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High winds move Bighorn Fire within 10 miles of Summerhaven, Ski Valley on Tuesday

The Bighorn Fire crest a ridge on the north side of the Santa Catalina Mountains as the day's steady winds push the flames closer to Mount Lemmon, Tucson, Ariz., June 16, 2020.

Tuesday's high winds moved the Bighorn Fire along the Sutherland Ridge Trail where it meets the Mount Lemmon #5 Hiking Trail just east of Summerhaven, officials said. 

That meeting point where the fire reached is about four miles from Ski Valley and about six miles from Summerhaven. 

Fire crews responded to the fire's movement Tuesday with large airtankers to work the fire's edge and keep it from moving closer to the observatory, Rocky Gilbert, an operations section chief for the Southwest Incident Management Team, said in a video update Tuesday evening. 

Mt. Lemmon including Summerhaven and Mt. Bigelow were evacuated Tuesday. Residents were asked to head south on Catalina Highway and leave the mountain immediately. 

Pima County Sheriff Mark Napier said the sheriff's office is still evacuating residents in the area. There are 380 residents in the evacuation area, 150 of which are full-time residents, Napier said  in a virtual town hall meeting for Mt. Lemmon residents Tuesday night. 

About 30 Pima County Sheriff's Department employees are on the mountain helping with evacuations, he said. All but six of the residents have voluntarily evacuated. 

"Six people indicated that they would shelter in place," Napier said. "We certainly warn against it just because if the fire behavior changes and becomes much more aggressive or quicker we are not going to be able to go in to save those people who decided to shelter in place." 

This story continues after the map

Gary Zell, incident meteorologist for the fire and National Weather Service meteorologist in Tucson, said a red flag warning will be in place Wednesday as winds of more than 20 mph continue in the Catalina Mountains with 15% relative humidity or lower.

The wind will continue through Thursday before moving out of the area and being replaced with higher temperatures near 107 degrees in Tucson, Zell said Tuesday night. 

Resources will stay in the Mt. Lemmon area until the fire is contained to make sure that community is not impacted by the fire. 

Incident commander John Pearson of the Southwest Incident Management Team said he's confident the fire crews will successfully get the fire to move around the communities on Mt. Lemmon with the plans and assets they've put in place. 

"We'll see where we land," Pearson said. "It's not over. We've still got a lot of big country to deal with and so be prepared for those worse case scenarios when they come so we can react appropriately."

The rest of the fire is holding well, Gilbert said.

As of Tuesday night, the Bighorn Fire burning north of Tucson had grown to 15,805 acres, but progress has been made with containment reaching 40%. 

There are 729 people working the blaze, including seven hotshot crews, eight Type 2 hand crews, 27 Type 3 engines, one Type 4 engine, 25 Type 6 engines, four Type 1 helicopters, one Type 2 helicopter, two Type 3 helicopters, nine water tenders and six bulldozers. 

Contact reporter Stephanie Casanova at On Twitter: @CasanovaReports

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