TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Members of the media were allowed on Mt. Lemmon for the first time Monday, July 20.
The mountain, although badly burned in places, is still green and full of life in others. It’s considered a big win for Mt. Lemmon Fire Department Capt. Dan Leade.
“To be able to have a victory like this, even though the landscape is burnt and that’s certainly noticeable, the overall objectives were met and property was saved,” said Leade.
No structures or homes were lost during the Bighorn Fire. That wasn't the case nearly two decades ago, when the Aspen fire burned more than 3-hundred cabins and businesses.
The work of hot shot crews and back burn operations are the reason there’s anything to return to. The reason Leade still has a fire station to stand in front of.
"We stayed here and fought as long as we possibly could, and I think what we did actually helped saved our station," said Leade.
While residents can breathe a sigh of relief, it’s businesses are continuing to worry with the road up the mountain closed to the public. Possibly until November 1st.
“The roadway could be open before that and we’re certainly hoping it could be open before that for the businesses in Summerhaven,” said Pima County Sheriffs Department Public Information Officer Deputy James Allerton.
Allerton said it’s due to parts of the fire still crossing the roadway along with downed trees and some burned areas. And even when the road opens, parts of the forest might not be.
"There going to be fewer places to go to up here and we want everybody to come up here safely when they do come," said Allerton.
And when people can return, they’ll see the mountain still has some familiar features.
But where it will take time for the rest to re-grow, officials are asking the community to have the same patience until it’s completely safe to return.
“We love the tourism we love the benefit it has to the community, to the businesses, living in the desert to have a retreat like this is something everyone should get to enjoy—as soon as it’s safe,” said Leade.