BIG HORN FIRE: Looking at the damage one year later

Catalina State Park roaring back to life; Mount Lemmon will take a bit longer to recover
Updated: Jun. 4, 2021 at 7:34 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Last June, a lightning strike sparked the Bighorn Fire.

It ended up being one of the worst wildfires in Arizona’s history.

“When we got on the scene here at the Bighorn it had the potential to do what it did,” said Steven Miranda of the Coronado National Forrest.

He knew instantly, the fire had the potential to be bad — really bad.

“I remember I was out here on that day, it was spotting down four miles ahead toward Oracle,” Miranda said.

On June 16, the Bighorn Fire exploded on Mount Lemmon. Fire officials said windy conditions and the rugged terrain made it nearly impossible for crews to fight the fire.

“When you take a look around you see what the intensity this fire had,” Miranda said.

The fire burned about 30% of Catalina State Park and parts of Mount Lemmon. As intense as the flames were, life is returning, at least in Catalina State Park.

“I’ve been impressed at how well it has come back,” said Catalina State Park manager Steven Haas.

Haas couldn’t believe how quickly the plants and animals adapted to the conditions.

“To me, the most impressive are the saguaros,” Haas said. “After the fire, I came to look and was like ‘they’re not going to make it.’ Sure enough, you can see some that were burned (have) flowers.”

On Mount Lemmon, it is going to take a bit longer to recover.

“I feel like the recovery is still a little stunted from the drought,” Miranda said.

He hopes we get more rain this season but knows that also brings the fear of mudslides and flooding.

“It’s kind of a double-edged sward,” said Miranda.

As the hope of rain fills the minds of people across southern Arizona, officials want people to remember that fire danger is high and they don’t want history to repeat its self.

“It’s critical we do those prescribed burring treatments and we accelerate those efforts especially in the time that climate changes,” said Miranda. “It is rapidly getting worse, it’s changing before our eyes.”

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