Retardant dumped by plane. USWS photo by Tim Peterson
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Top Photo: Retardant dumped by plane. USWS photo by Tim Peterson

While wildfires play an important role in maintaining a diverse and healthy ecosystem, three major blazes helped along by hot, dry and sometimes very windy conditions have left their mark on Arizona.

The Bush fire 30 miles northeast of Phoenix is the largest of the blazes, burning 193,455 acres and was human-caused. As of press time, it is almost fully contained, meaning firefighters have made it so it can’t spread. The Bighorn fire in the Santa Catalina Mountains north of Tucson was lightning-caused and has burned 119,000 acres and is 75 percent contained. And the Mangum fire near the North Rim of the Grand Canyon covers 71,450 acres and is 88 percent contained.

How large are these fires? They are three of the 10 largest wildfires in Arizona history! But with monsoon season arriving, hopes are high these fires will finally come to an end and that firefighters get the upper hand on other smaller fires burning in the state.

These fires are expensive and dangerous to fight. For the Bighorn fire at its peak, more than 1,000 firefighters battled the blaze. Huge jet air tankers, smaller tankers and special helicopters dropped fire retardant all over the mountain. So far, fighting this wildfire has cost $37 million!

Seventeen years ago, lightning set off the Aspen fire, burning 84,750 acres of the Santa Catalinas. But that fire destroyed 340 homes and businesses. This time around, the firefighters, including hotshot crews that specialize in fighting wildfires, have saved all the buildings so far!

Wildfires can burn for weeks and can be extremely dangerous and unpredictable. Seven years ago, the Granite Mountain Hotshots were battling the Yarnell Hill fire when almost all of their crew perished.

July 2020