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Mt. Lemmon evacuated as Bighorn Fire burns up Catalina Mtns

'Set' alert in place lower on mountain

Residents of Summerhaven must leave their homes Tuesday afternoon because of the approaching Bighorn Fire, which has moved up the slopes toward Mt. Lemmon.

A separate "SET" alert was announced later in the afternoon for the Willow Canyon area slightly lower on the mountain.

The "GO" evacuation alert issued Tuesday covers the Mt. Lemmon/ Mt. Bigelow north of the Organization Ridge Road area, including the village of Summerhaven, the Pima County Sheriff's Department said.

"If you are in this area, EVACUATE NOW. Safely move south on Catalina Highway and leave the mountain. Do not delay leaving the area," PCSD said.

Deputies will be going door to door to make contact with those affected residents who may not have received the message.

An evacuation center is open at Sahuaro High School, 545 N. Camino Seco. Large animal sheltering will be done at Rillito Racetrack, 4502 N. 1st Ave. Pima Animal Care Center will also be housing pets from evacuated homes.

The "set" area covers the area from Organization Ridge Road to South Willow Canyon, PCSD said.

Evacuation & caution areas map

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The area evacuated atop the Catalina Mountains is shown in red, the "set" warning areas in yellow, the the fire perimeter as of Tuesday afternoon in purple.

From Pima County:

Residents should consider voluntarily relocating outside the affected area with family/friends. Residents should avoid close contact with those who are sick and should practice public health recommendations when relocating. Grab your emergency go kit. Keep in mind unique needs for your family or special equipment for pets and livestock.

Stay aware of the latest news and information from public safety and public health officials.

This might be the only notice you receive. Emergency services cannot guarantee they will be able to notify everyone if conditions rapidly deteriorate. Be SET to GO.

Residents on the mountain were warned to be prepared to evacuate Sunday evening.

The Catalina Highway has been closed at the base, with only residents and business owners allowed to drive up. Power has been cut on top of the mountain because electrical lines were threatened by the fire.

Burned area nears 16,000 acres

The area burned by the blaze hit 15,800 acres by Tuesday morning, Forest Service officials said, and was about 30 percent contained.

The fire, which started with a lightning strike on June 5, crept over Pusch Ridge and grown along the southern flank of the Catalinas, reaching more than 4,700 acres by Thursday morning. It had burned about 13,000 acres by Sunday night.

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About 730 firefighters were working the blaze Tuesday, about 100 more than over the weekend.

From Pima County:

Ready, Set, Go is the state's evacuation alert system. The three steps encourage Arizonans to get READY by preparing now for what threatens their community, to be SET by maintaining awareness of significant danger, and to GO, to evacuate immediately when the danger is current and life-threatening.

Lookie-loos asked to stay away

Authorities asked over the weekend that the public avoid the Oro Valley/Catalina area "unless they are going to their homes or conducting business," because congestion from non-residents is "creating roadway dangers for both emergency personnel and people traveling in the area."

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Paul Ingram/TucsonSentinel.com