Kitt Peak Observatory, tribal town evacuated
TUCSON – A wildfire in southern Arizona has forced evacuations of a small tribal community and Kitt Peak National Observatory.
Fire officials said Friday the blaze's growth northward prompted a decision to evacuate the community of Pan Tak on the Tohono O’odham Indian Reservation.
Meanwhile, the electricity at the observatory has been shut down and employees evacuated on Thursday. The fire has reached Kitt Peak Road after being fueled by dense shrub.
A post from the observatory's official Twitter account says firefighters are working to assess possible damage. It also shared a photo from an observatory camera. It shows a long, orange trail of frames on a peak along with huge plumes of smoke.
It has grown to 18 square miles and there is zero containment.
More than 300 firefighters along with five helicopters are working on containment. Crews are clearing flammable material on the ground and monitoring the fire's behavior. On the south side, they are using fire lines, sprinkler systems and other methods to keep the fire away from the Elkhorn Ranch. That ranching community has been told to prepare for evacuation.
The lightning-caused wildfire was first reported June 11 roughly 20 miles (32 kilometers) east of Sells. It started on a remote ridge of the Baboquivari Mountain range.
More crews are expected to arrive Friday.
Firefighters say they are hoping for more favorable weather conditions later in the day and into the weekend.