The Main Stream

Jun 13, 2011 10:20 PM

Monument Fire latest

TUCSON - The Monument Fire is the latest fire to break out in Southern Arizona.

There is no containment on the fire right now and is spreading rapidly. It has burned 3,000 acres in the Coronado National Monument near Sierra Vista. The fire is a level one, so it requires the highest level of expertise to fighting it.

Firefighters are attacking it from the air and from the ground. However, officials tells News 4 the huge air tankers were grounded due to the high winds. The helicopters were able to help.

Some residents evacuated earlier are being allowed to return but all areas from and including Coronado Memorial Road west and north to Ash Canyon south of Highway 92 still remain evacuated.

Denise Schultz with the Coronado fire service says the firefighters are challenged by the wind, the dryness, and the lack of humidity. "They're really working on structure protection to bring the fire under control," she says.

Martin Ellsworth and his family were evacuated. He says he didn't know what to pack or take with him. He took picture albums with him, but had to leave his animals. "We could see the flames from the top of the mountain to the bottom," he says. He was able to return to his house on Monday and found everything just as he had left it. He says they were fortunate.

Also of concern is the Shrine of Our Lady of the Sierras. A 75-foot Celtic cross and a 30-foot statue of the Virgin Mary are located high on a hill in the Huachuca Mountains. An inmate crew from Wilmot spent the night clearing the area around the shrine as well houses around it protect them from the fire. Joanie Evans says their church, Sierra Springs, has called on its members to pray. "We pray to God that he will enable all these firefighters to stop this before it takes people's homes and maybe lives," she says.

Officials say the fire is human caused, and it's under investigation.

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