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LIVE UPDATES: Contreras Fire burns nearly 29K acres, 100 percent contained

20 mi east of Sells, on Tohono O'odham Reservation
The Contreras Fire has burned thousands of acres in the Baboquivari Mountains
A fire is burning in remote mountains about 20 miles east of Sells.
Contreras Fire from back porch at Diamond Bell Ranch.  Photograph by Catherine Sienko
Contreras Fire from back porch at Diamond Bell Ranch.  Photograph by Catherine Sienko
Posted at 3:12 PM, Jun 12, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-24 13:20:46-04

PIMA COUNTY, Ariz. (KGUN) — Update 10:25 a.m., June 24

The fire remained at 29,482 acres and is 100 percent contained.

There are 254 firefighters, including one crew, four engines and a water tender.

Kitt Peak Observatory remained evacuated, but maintenance workers were allowed onsite to assess damage.

Flash flooding in the burn scar presented dangers of falling rocks and other debris.

Update 10:25 a.m., June 23

The fire grew to 29.482 acres and is 83 percent contained.

There are 383 firefighters, with seven crews, 20 engines, 18 water tenders and two helicopters at the fire.

Residents of Pan Tak returned home Wednesday evening.

Today, fire crews will connect containment lines on the northwest section of the fire and scout for suppression activities.

RELATED: Evacuating Kitt Peak Observatory: What employees tried to save

Update 10:25 a.m., June 22

The fire has burned 28,977 acres and remains at 50 percent containment.

There are 440 crewmembers assigned to the blaze. Kitt Peak and Pan Take remain in GO evacuation status, while Hayhook Estates and Elkhorn Estates are in READY status.

There are nine crews, 28 engines, 19 water tenders, two graders and seven helicopters assigned to the fire.

Today, crews will strengthen containment lines while burning interior pockets of vegetation. Aircraft will support ground crews on slopes below Kitt Peak.

On the Kitt Peak Observatory grounds, structure protection crews will look for and extinguish heat.

Update 10:16 a.m., June 21

The fire has burned 24,761 acres and is 50 percent contained.

There are 436 crew members assigned to the blaze. Kitt Peak and Pan Take remain in GO evacuation status, while Hayhook Estates and Elkhorn Estates are in READY status.

On Monday, crews completed a control line around the south half of the fire.

Most of today's fire activity is expected to take place west of Sasabe Road. Smoke could impact Highway 86, as well as the Pan Tak and Hayhook Estates areas.

Today, crew members will take part in mop-up and assessment of Kitt Peak.

Crews will also scout for any damage from fire suppression activities.

Update 11:34 a.m., June 20

The fire has burned 20,360 acres and is 40 percent contained.

Nearly 400 people are assigned to the blaze.

Crews are developing a structure protection plan for Pan Tak and Hayhook Estates.

The fire is expected to shift toward Kitt Peak Road and Coyote Mountain Wilderness because of a wind shift. Crews will work on defensive operations below Kitt Peak Observatory and maintain water bars and other repair measures near Elkhorn Ranch.

Update 5:30 a.m., June 20

The residents at Hay Hook Ranch Estates are in "Ready" evacuation status due to the Contreras Fire, according to Pima County Sheriff's Department. PCSD encourages people to prepare their emergency kits and consider relocating. The fire is 40% contained and is currently at 20,360 acres. There are driving alerts along Highway 86 and State Route 386 is closed.

Update 9:40 a.m., June 19

The fire is 40% contained and is currently at 18,843 acres.

Update 12:13 p.m., June 18

Fire officials say a total of four non-scientific structures were lost in the fire, a house, a dorm, and two minor outbuildings.

The area has been evacuated and none of the scientific structures or satellites have been impacted fire officials say they do need to re-check the area when it is safe.

Update 8:58 a.m., June 18

The Contreras Fire has grown to 17,646 acres and around 306 personnel are working to contain the fire.

It is 0% contained, fire crews are expected to have the Contreras Fire fully contained by Sunday, June 26th, 2022 around 6 p.m.

We are in close contact with the NSF's NOIRLab leadership, who are in direct contact with those leading the firefighting efforts. They are providing updates as information becomes available. We are grateful to all who are working to fight the fire and help protect the facilities while keeping everyone safe.
University of Arizona President Robert C. Robbins.

Update 1:16 p.m., June 17

Eastern Area Team Incident Commander Brian Pisarek told KGUN 9's Craig Smith that the Contreras Fire is now the No. 1 priority among United States wildfires.

The southwest region is the top priority in the nation, and the Contreras Fire is the top priority in the southwest.

The distinction gives firefighter crews priority access to resources.

Update 12:14 p.m., June 17

Kitt Peak said on Twitter that it is working with firefighters to assess possible damage to the observatory.

Update 11:32 a.m., June 17

The fire reached the Kitt Peak Observatory site overnight. Firefighters engaged the blaze at 2 a.m.

The Pan Tak community was sent into GO evacuation status.

Update 8:45 a.m., June 17

The fire has grown to 11,489 acres with no containment.

More than 300 crew members are assigned to the fire.

Today, firefighters will scout to find roads, trail systems, and natural barriers to work as holding features.

Structure protection divisions have been assigned to the Kitt Peak Observatory and Elkhorn Ranch.

Update 8:30 p.m., June 16

More than 300 people are working to put out the fire, according to the Eastern Area Incident Management Team.

The Eastern Area Incident Management Team has taken over as the lead on the fire.

The fire crews are from all over the country. There are some crews working to suppress the flames while others are focused on protecting the observatory, Clark McCreedy, the Lead Public Information Officer for the Eastern Area Incident Management Team, said.

McCreedy added that the heat from today has made battling the fire incredibly difficult.

"It would be hard for me to overstate just how difficult this really is,: McCreedy said. "Mid-range, upper elevations, the temperatures on those south facing slopes are actually 120 degrees."

Many of the firefighters on the fire are part of the hotshot crews.

"They actually all have experience working in landscapes like this one," McCreedy said.

That is good news for Dr. Melissa Brucker, Principal Investigator, Spacewatch, who works at the Lunar and Planetary Lab on Kitt Peak.

"We do a lot of daily work working on software and improving our operations but without telescopes we would not be able to collect any data," Brucker said. "We just have to rely on all the great firefighters that are fighting the fire."

Update 2:00 p.m., June 16

The Tohono O'odham Nation is continuing to work with local fire departments controlling flames in the Baboquivari Mountains north of Babooquivari Peak.

The Office of Emergency Management told KGUN 9 the fire is currently burning on land which is steep and difficult to access.

About 11,5000 acres have burned, says InciWeb.

According to firefighters, 0% is contained.

Tohono O'odham Nation officials also confirmed State Route 386 is still closed at milepost 1.

Update: 5:55 a.m., June 16

State Route 386 was closed and Kitt Peak is in GO status.

The fire grew to 6,662 acres.

Donations of items including sports drinks, water, jerky, tuna and snacks are accepted at the Sasabe Firestation at 10351 S. Sasabe Road.

Update: 1:42 p.m., June 15

The fire grew to 6,662 acres Wednesday and remains at 0 percent containment.

Elk Horn Ranch and Kitt Peak Observatory are both on SET status.

More than 300 people, 3 helicopters, one air attack, four hand crews, four water tenders and four engines are fighting the fire.

Crews are working to protect the ranch and observatory.

The Type 2 Incident Management Team will take over command of the fire at 6 a.m. Thursday.

RELATED: Ready, Set, Go! explained

Map of Contreras Fire

This article was updated on 06/14/22

The Contreras Fire, started Saturday, June 11, has grown to 1,670 acres.

The Southeast Arizona Type Three Incident Management Team assumed command over the Contreras Fire the morning of Tuesday, June 14.

Tucson Fire Department Captain Michael Short is assisting the effort, serving as the Medical Group Leader.

The team reports the fire at 0% containment. Currently 150 total personal are working to reduce the size of the fire, with two helicopters providing air support.

The fire is not currently considered a threat to nearby Sells and Three Points and no evacuations have been ordered.

Original article:

A wildfire known as the Contreras Fire is burning in the Baboquivari Mountains on the Tohono O'odham Reservation, about 20 miles east of Sells.

According to the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Papago Agency, the fire is at least 80 acres as of Sunday afternoon, burning in steep and rugged terrain.

Although it is difficult for firefighters to access, airtankers have used retardant to slow the fire's progress.

Smoke is visible from Sells, but the fire is currently burning in a remote area, not threatening people or buildings. It is zero percent contained as of Sunday afternoon.

BIA, Papago Agency says the fire started Saturday, with lightning as the likely cause.

The Southeast Zone Incident Management Team 3 will take command of the fire on the evening of June 13, according to BIA Papago Agency.

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