Soldier Basin Wildfire, east of Nogales, at 3,800 acres

NOGALES, AZ (Tucson News Now) - More than 200 people continue to fight a wildfire northeast of Nogales. The Soldier Basin Fire was about four miles east of Nogales International Airport, in the Patagonia Mountains on Monday.

It was reported Friday.  Tuesday morning, fire crews reporting that it's burned more than 3,800 acres and containment is around eight percent.

The plan is to get the Soldier Basin Wildfire out of the rugged, steep areas, down to where fire crews want it.

The Forest Service has now included a swing shift so some firefighters are starting work later in the day and working as late as midnight.

That means more burn-out operations, probably using flammable ping pong balls, dropped from helicopters down into the high elevations.  Accuracy is important.

"They do a test run and they have blank balls that don't have anything in them so they're able to test and see where the winds are going to take them, and where they're going to fall so they can establish the patterns so they can space them out evenly."

Ground crews also are clearing brush, creating fire lines to stop the progression of the fire.

That's the reason for burning out acreage too. The burns deprive the fire of fuel. The goal is to keep the fire deep inside the Coronado National Forest, away from structures.

It's mostly oak and mesquite, grass and brush.

"We want to let folks know to expect to see additional smoke and expect increased acreage over the next couple of days as we conduct burn-out operations in different parts of the fire to help corral it," says Soldier Basin Wildfire Information Officer Michelle Fidler.

Fidler says, since the fire is not threatening any structures, there's no need to chase it down.

"We're looking for opportunities to bring the fire to us where we can put it on our terms and get it tied in with those prep lines that we've been building," she says.

Fidler says this fire was human-caused.

"We know that because there was no lightning reported in the area," says Fidler.  She says it's under investigation.

Fidler says there's no estimate yet on when the fire will be declared controlled.

Conditions are so dry that fire restrictions will go into effect for the Coronado National Forest starting Wednesday.  That means no campfires or smoking outside allowed.

Weather dictates firefighting strategies and resources, so ground crews are constantly monitoring the conditions at the fire site using a special kit they wear on their belt.  Tools can be used to measure wind and humidity, among other weather factors.

Of course, the smoke can create health issues for some people.

During the day, the smoke is high up in the air, but with cooler nighttime temperatures it can settle in the low-lying areas where the people are, which is something to watch out for.

Federal, state and local crews are working on the Soldier Basin Wildfire.

We are early in the fire season, a fire season expected to be above average here in the southwestern United States.

To keep track of the Soldier Basin Fire click here.

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