Jun 14, 2013 7:36 PM by Lorraine Rivera

Aspen Fire: 10 years later

TUCSON - Monday marks the ten year anniversary of the Aspen Fire. A decade ago flames scorched Mount Lemmon. The fire started June 17 and burned for nearly a month.

Heidi Schewel, a public affairs officer for the Coronado National Forest Service said, "it was very dramatic. It was what no one wanted to see."

The fire began on Marshall Peak and burned for two days but then the winds changed and took the flames into the community of Summerhaven, Schewel said. More than 300 homes and cabins were destroyed and 84,750 acres burned.

Chris Stetson, a fuels specialist for the Coronado National Forest Service said the hot temperatures, dry vegetation and steep terrain fueled the fire.

He said safety of fire fighters is a key element in fighting fires, "when we start seeing high flames lengths or erratic behavior the fire getting up into the trees there's not a whole lot you can do at that point so you have to back off."

Crews fought the fire from the air and on the ground, "it's not worth it to go in there and try to save a house when you might be putting the fire fighters in danger."

Many of the homes and cabins on Mount Lemmon were rebuilt. Stetson said though the fire did a lot of damage the forestry is recovering, "it's a tragedy that these fires occur but as you can see stuff does come back, the vegetation does come back. It might be different structure and composition but you know it comes back.

These mountains and this elevation, this vegetation it's used to fire. And it's going to happen. It's just a matter of when and making sure that we can try to get these areas treated so that when a fire does happen fire fighters can get in there and do something with it safely.

It's long been thought a cigarette butt started the fire. Schewel said a Tucson man was at the center of the investigation for lying to authorities regarding his whereabouts when the fire started but he was never formally charged with starting the Aspen Fire.

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