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Breakdown of the 'behavior' of Bighorn Fire

Posted at 1:24 AM, Jun 19, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-19 07:59:23-04

MOUNT LEMMON, Ariz. — A number of factors that contributed to how big the Bighorn Fire has been and where it's burned on the mountains.

The crews fighting the fire below have had help from meteorologists who are using information they get from satellites, very high in the sky.

"They take that information and they run through the computer models and that gives us some sense of what the behavior might be, where it might spread," Molly Hunter, a spokesperson for the Emergency Management team and herself a researcher at the University of Arizona says the bighorn fire has been patchy.

"There's what we call a mosaic of fire behavior, and a mosaic of fire effects."

In some spots during the day, she says it burns with fierce intensity.

"At night, when it's burning, it tends to sort of smolder and burn with lower intensity."

Hunter said three components have been active in the behavior of the Bighorn Fire.

"Fuels, weather, and topography, all of those things together combined influence where the fire is spreading and hot it is spreading."

The fire, Hunter said, feeds on vegetation, logs, and anything in its path.

"As the fire moves through an area, it burns up the fuel."

Fuel is one way, Hunter said, crews are keeping the fire away from structures in the Catalinas.

"By lighting a fire under conditions that are optimal for them that they can control that sort of robs the fire of fuel and it'll keep it out of an area that you don't want it to burn."

Hunter said crews did just that protect an observatory in the mountains.

A wet winter also contributed to this fire, Hunter said, leading to lots of vegetation that by now has gotten dry and provided it with more to burn.