Wind driving wildfire in southern Arizona

According to LT. Pratt with Green Valley Fire the brush fire is estimated at 860 acres.                      KGUN9 On Your Side

For the first time in days, officials announced an increase in containment of a large wildfire burning in southern Arizona.

Evacuation orders were issued for about 80 homes, and another 88 homes were given pre-evacuation orders, according to a report.

Those included 11 nuns ordered from their abbey on the Santa Ritas' western foothills Monday but allowed to return Tuesday after the fire changed direction.

Anyone in the vicinity of the fire should be on alert, Schewel said Tuesday morning.

The Sonoita-Elgin Fire District includes areas in Pima County, such as Singing Valley Road. The fire was likely caused by humans, according to officials. The highway is now closed from about five miles north of Sonoita to about 11 miles south of Interstate 10, says the Arizona Department of Transportation.

The fire started Sunday about 10 miles (16.1 kilometers) southeast of Green Valley, then swept across the Santa Rita Mountains.

The wind died down Wednesday, allowing firefighters to get a better handle on the Sawmill Fire using an aerial attack along the northern fire line.

The nuns all stayed at a bed-and-breakfast.

Fire management team spokesman Manny Cordova said some mop-up has begun where the fire has calmed down, but he said the worst may not be over. A Forest Service road over the Santa Ritas from Arizona 83 at Greaterville was also closed.

The Type 3 team that was managing the fire burning in and around the Santa Rita Mountains southeast of Tucson was replaced late Tuesday by a high-level Type 2 team, and the Type 2 itself is going to be replaced by a Type 1 team.

"A full suppression strategy is being employed to protect nearby values at risk including homes, ranches and outbuildings, communications facilities, powerlines, and the Arizona National Scenic Trail", Andrews said.

Fire management team spokesman John Cambra said winds gusting up to 25 miles per hour made use of air tankers ineffective, and forest spokeswoman Heidi Schewel said gusty winds and rough terrain contributed to the fire's growth in the Santa Rita Mountains southeast of Tucson. Ranch owners were alerted that they could move their horses and cattle to the fairgrounds in Sonoita, which will serve as an evacuation center for livestock as well as people.

These conditions created the flawless combination for a fire, a Green Valley Fire Department spokesperson told KGUN, and all it needed was a small spark.

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