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Elgin Bridge Fire burns 4K acres south of Tucson, threatens power lines for Ft. Huachuca & Sierra Vista

Elgin Bridge Fire burns 4K acres south of Tucson, threatens power lines for Ft. Huachuca & Sierra Vista

Blaze is 0% contained as officials warn of 'red-flag' conditions

Fueled by wind and dry vegetation, the Elgin Bridge Fire has consumed 4,000 acres of grasslands and chaparral, and crews are working to keep the wildfire from overrunning high-voltage power lines that supply electricity to Fort Huachuca and Sierra Vista, authorities said Tuesday.

Overnight, the fire stayed active and burned to the east about a half-mile from Elgin — about 45 miles southeast of Tucson — but firefighters were able to "safely and directly engage the fire," said Tiffany Davila, a spokeswoman for Arizona's Department of Forestry and Fire Management. Firefighters managed to block the fire from coming off Mustang Mountain and moving toward "high priority" areas, including the electrical lines, she said.

The fire is zero percent contained.

The fire is burning in semi-remote areas, largely state trust, Bureau of Land Management and private lands, but, on Monday the Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Office ordered residents of 11 properties to evacuate. Following Tuesday night's efforts, Davila said the evacuation, or "GO" order was lifted for residences along Mustang Ranch Road, east of Elgin.

However, scattered ranch houses may yet be in the wildfire's path. "While there are no additional SET or GO notifications, residents are urged to stay alert and have situational awareness," Davila said. "Wildfire conditions can change at a moment’s notice and residents must stay prepared for ever-evolving circumstances."

Davila warned the grasslands are "unseasonably dry, thus fire behavior at times, can be erratic and extreme," and Tuesday's weather may "escalate fire behavior and challenge efforts to suppress" it  after a red flag warning was issued for southeastern Arizona.

"As with more recent fires in Southern Arizona over the last few weeks, the Elgin Bridge Fire has been wind-driven, pushing through tall and short grass, brush, and chaparral," Davila said. 

Earlier this month, the San Rafael Fire burned 11,620 acres through the San Rafael Valley, extending from the U.S.-Mexico border to Canelo Hills Road about 10 miles southwest of the current Elgin Bridge Fire.

Firefighters will work to build lines of containment along three fronts to keep the fire from spreading, she said.

Davila said hand-crews and aircraft will attempt to establish a containment line to keep the fire south of State Route 82 to keep it from burning into the Rain Valley Ranch—a historic working cattle ranch protected by the Arizona Land and Water Trust. Firefighters will also battle the fire along Upper Elgin Road to protect Elgin and Sonoita, and attempt slow the fire's spread to the southeast to protect Babacomari Ranch.

Davila said the red flag warning "does not specifically include the fire area," but "increased winds, warm temperatures, and low relative humidity play a role in fire activity."

Around 210 people are attacking the fire, including state, federal and local firefighters. This includes 12 engines, seven hand-crews, along with aircraft.

The fire started Monday morning, and its cause remains under investigation.

As fire season worsens this summer, officials instituted new restrictions on state and federal lands, limiting campfires and smoking across most of Arizona. On Wednesday, all southeastern Arizona Wildland Fire Management entities—including Arizona Fire and Forestry, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, BLM, US Fish and Wildlife Service, the Forest Service, and the National Park Service—will implement campfire and smoking restrictions in southeastern Arizona.

This covers state trust land in Cochise, Graham, Greenlee, Pima, Pinal, and Santa Cruz counties along with BLM lands. Similarly, the entire Coronado National Forest is covered by the restrictions, officials said, as well as Saguaro National Park.

From May 26 until rescinded, visitors to public lands may not have campfires, and cannot use charcoal, coal or elevated grills. This includes fires in developed campgrounds or improved sites, officials said.

Smoking is also prohibited, except within an enclosed vehicle or building. 

While hunting remains allowed under state, federal or tribal laws and regulations, target shooting is blocked. Similarly, officials are prohibiting the use of motor-vehicles away from designated roadways, as well as welding, and using explosives.

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