Forest Service allowing fire in Catalina Mountains to burn

Forest Service allowing fire in Catalina Mountains to burn
Fire burning in Catalina Mountains. Source: Colton Shone
Fire burning in Catalina Mountains. Source: Colton Shone
Fire on west side of Catalina Mountains (Source: Chanelle Ratajczyk)
Fire on west side of Catalina Mountains (Source: Chanelle Ratajczyk)

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - A forest fire continues to burn in the Catalina Mountains, raising some concern among nearby residents.

The fire is near Pusch Ridge and is visible to many people on Tucson's northwest side, especially in Oro Valley. As nightfall approached, the orange glow of the flames were clearly visible.

It had grown to 60 acres as of Monday night, but no firefighters have been dispatched. Instead, the Coronado National Forest has decided to let the "fire burn itself out."

The fire began after a thunderstorm on the western edge of Buster Mountain, and is on the top third of the mountain, according to Heidi Schewel of the U.S. Forest Service.

It has been spreading slowly due to a number of factors including the rocky terrain with little vegetation to burn, rain showers in the area and high humidity.

The forest service has placed the fire in the "monitor" status, meaning it is being watched, but fire crews have not been dispatched and that has some visitors to Catalina State Park concerned.

The fire was naturally started by a lightning strike and there are benefits to letting a wildfire take its natural course when there are no lives or property being threatened. Wildfires have a natural ability to get rid of dangerous fuels and bolster forest ecology.

In 2013, the U.S. Forest Service altered its approach and announced that it would let more fires burn instead of attacking every one.

After decades of fire suppression, fire managers eventually realized that was creating dangerous conditions for more devastating wildfires.

The Bureau of Land Management published a brochure entitled, "Why Are You Letting It Burn?"

It reads, "aging forests often become continuous stands of black spruce ready to burst into intense fires. These fires are more difficult and dangerous to control, and can cause greater property damage." That same concept applies to the Coronado National Forest.

Despite the reasons to let fires burn, there is always a chance they could spread even in remote areas.

As reported by the Huffington Post in a March 8, 2013 article:

"Last year, the Parks Service allowed a fire to burn that started as a half-acre blaze in remote Lassen Volcanic National Park in Northern California. What became the Reading Fire eventually required firefighters and ended up charring 42 square miles of forestlands as it spread outside the park's boundaries to lands managed by the Forest Service and California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. The fire damaged the region's timber industry and cost an estimated $15 million to suppress."

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