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Photos: Bighorn Fire grows to more than 37,000 acres

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The Bighorn Fire is visible from townhouses near Ventana Canyon as the fire burns downslope. Fire officials said that crews may begin attacking the fire once in reaches flatter ground from the rugged canyon walls. - Paul Ingram/TucsonSentinel.com

More by Paul Ingram

Photos showing the spread of the Bighorn Fire burning north of Tucson on Thursday night, as the fire continued to spread across the Catalina Mountains:

Since June 5, the lightning-sparked fire has engulfed 37,058 acres, forcing evacuations all across the mountains, and in the lower foothills, including Summerhaven, Willow Canyon, and Peppersauce Canyon. Portions of Oracle, East Golder Ranch, and the Catalina foothills remain in "set" evacuation status, with residents warned to be alert and ready for an evacuation order. People in Oro Valley from Catalina State Park to Magee Road were also warned to prepare for evacuation, including the Tucson foothills from First Avenue to Alvernon Way. 

About 924 people are working to fight the spreading wildfire, including 8 hotshot crews and dozens of fire engines, along with a squadron of aircraft, including the large, bug-like Sikorsky Sky Crane, as well helicopters like Chinooks, and fixed-wing aircraft, like the DC-10 VLAT, or Very Large Air Tanker—capable of carrying 13,000-gallons of fire retardant. 

On Friday morning, fire managers said that lower wind speeds, smoke will settle in the communities around the fire area, and temperatures will run about 100 degrees, with low humidity and mild winds. 

Fire managers said they expect the fire to grow northeast to Cañada del Oro and Alder Canyons on Friday, and crews working south of Oracle and San Manuel will tie in containment lines to prepare for additional firing operations. Meanwhile, firefighters on Mt. Lemmon are working along Catalina Highway to protect Summerhaven and the Mt. Lemmon Sky Center.

They also said that the fire burning along Samaniego Ridge and the top of Ventana Canyon will subside, and the fire will move downslope at a moderate pace where crews can successfully engage it on flat ground.

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