KGUN 9NewsWildfire Watch


Ventana Fire burns in Catalinas

Re-burning areas hit by Bighorn Fire
Posted at 5:48 PM, Jun 20, 2023

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — Firefighters are throwing a lot of resources at the Ventana Fire to keep it from spreading through the Catalinas like the Bighorn or Aspen Fires.

There are some signs of success written in the bright lines of fire retardant. They have boxed in the fire and should keep it from spreading.

Planes dropping retardant through the morning and into the afternoon had the goal of using the super wet retardant to create areas so moist the fire would have trouble crossing those lines.

LIVE UPDATES: Fire crews box in Ventana Fire, but winds threaten containment

With the lines established, more of the fight shifted to helicopters picking up and dropping huge buckets of water on the hotspots inside the lines. Depending on the helicopter some of those drops can be up to 500 gallons at a time.

Some of the people watching the action remember other recent fires. Bob Thompson can think back to more than that. He says he served as a smoke jumper who’d strap on a parachute and jump into a fire zone.

He says, “Well it was kinda fun—we would jump in with tools, mostly shovels, rakes, and flares and we would jump in, create a backfire, try to clear the area and keep it from spreading.”

Andrea Simon-Topoff says she remembers the mountain on fire duing the Bighorn Fire. She says she’s an EMT who deploys to emergencies like hurricanes, so she is watching this fire response with the eyes of a first responder.

“You see all of the different resources coming together to help out on an incident like this," says Simon-Topoff. "You see sheriff's deputies driving by, you see the helicopters and airplanes in the background and it makes you realize how much work is put into a fire like this.”

While the most visible firefighters have been in aircraft, there are ground crews who did not parachute in like Bob Thompson, but did rappell down ropes from helicopters to fight the fire on foot.

As of Tuesday afternoon they were still fighting fire on the mountain. U.S. Forest Service spokesperson Starr Farrell says, “We have the firefighters that are upon the mountain that have put in containment lines strategically to try to keep that fire in a certain area.”


Craig Smith is a reporter for KGUN 9. With more than 40 years of reporting in cities like Tampa, Houston and Austin, Craig has covered more than 40 Space Shuttle launches and covered historic hurricanes like Katrina, Ivan, Andrew and Hugo. Share your story ideas and important issues with Craig by emailing or by connecting on Facebook and Twitter.