KGUN 9NewsWildfire Watch


Buffelgrass, Wind and Tough Terrain: Bighorn Fire continues to grow, while firefighters face many obstacles

Posted at 7:18 AM, Jun 25, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-25 12:29:00-04

TUCSON, Ariz. — As the fire continues to grow, different layers of ecology, tough terrain and wind are all affecting the way firefighters can stop the spread.

For a wild land firefighter, the different habitats living on the Catalina Mountains, from the brush to the oak trees, all act as different fuel types.

This can affect how a fire burns. For example, brush like grass will burn a lot easier than the bark of an oak tree.

However, the invasive species buffelgrass is affecting it a more negative way, because it burns at such a high intensity.

"(The fire) It doesn’t bode well for those areas with a lot of buffelgrass, that’s probably where you would have had highest intensity of fire and the greatest impact to a species such as saguaro," Wildlife Biologist at the Santa Catalina Ranger District Joshua Taiz said.

Taiz said Sonora desert scrub doesn't do well in fires, and as of right now, the future for this burned ecology in the Bighorn Fire in uncertain.

Buffelgras is just one of the many factors causing the fire to grow.

Taiz said the biggest reason is the terrain of where the fire is burning. The steep country has no easy safe routes or safety zones for firefighters.

"In order to stop fires, you need to be able to get people in on them," Taiz said. "The terrain, particularly of the push ridge wilderness, is not a safe place that you can put firefighters in to stop a fire."

He said keeping fire crews safe is a top priority, so in order to fight the bighorn fire, they have to wait for it to come to them.