The charred remains caused millions in structural damages, not including the value of contents inside the homes and businesses. Some of the radio towers have been melted, but the observatory was spared.
Thire fire burned burned over 85,000 acres across the top of the range and on both the north and south sides all the way down to Ventana Canyon. The Canyon homes and Ventana Canyon Resort was evacuated for a few days before the fire was finally put out by the rains.
The rains also caused some flash flooding and mudslides over the next weeks. Black soot from the mountain pours down Sabino Creek.
During the monthlong fire, at night the glowing orange flames glittered across the sky. During the day, the range is covered with a cloud of smoke. It was a grim reminder of the complete destruction whenever someone looks up from the Tucson city streets to the burning mountain just a few miles away.
The fire, called the Aspen Fire, has been determined by the U.S. Forest Service to be human caused. An area of 20 by 20 feet is narrowed down to where the fire started along a Marshal Gulch trail on Tuesday, June 17. While several people were questioned, and placed near the scene, no charges have been filed in connection to the blaze.
The same day, lightning struck the eastside Rincon Mountains and sparked the still burning Helen II fire. That fire was caused by lightning, but a review of records of lightning strikes that day did not show any on the Catalina Mountains. The cost to battle the Aspen Fire has exceeded $16 million to date.
Within two days, the fire tore up the mountain through the Marshal Gulch valley towards Summerhaven fueled by extremely high winds for several days. The winds prevented firefighters from getting close to the fire by land and air. The winds whipped through the mountains gathering energy and wiped out Summerhaven within an hour about 1:30 p.m. that Thursday afternoon.
Daily news feeds show the charred remains of entire streets of cabins. A few survived. Most of Summerhaven was destroyed- including the Alpine Lodge which survived a fire several decades ago. Residents and businesses vow to rebuild. But the discussion is for stricter building and fire codes for the new structures. Some may not be able to rebuild because of land and deed restrictions.
The entire city of Tucson has been saddened that month as the menacing cloud of ash hung over the city constantly reminding us that our "jewel" in the desert is now a piece of charcoal. We will never enjoy the mountain as it once was. It will takes decades and centuries to return. The people of Tucson mourn the loss.