A wind-driven wildfire burned 14,900 acres of brush and grass by midday Sunday near Cochise County's Dragoon Mountains, federal fire officials reported.
The Lizard Fire, near Cochise Stronghold 50 miles east of Tucson, was at 5 percent containment, and occupants of nearly three dozen homes remained evacuated.
Electricity to some of the sparsely populated area was cut off because the fire threatened a transmission line.
Nearly 300 firefighters worked the lines Sunday on Coronado National Forest land. High winds were forecast to continue at least until sunset Sunday. Officials planned an informational meeting at Sunsites for residents Sunday afternoon.
A ban was announced for aircraft not associated with the fire, after a drone was spotted over the area last week. Fire Information Officer Gerry Perry said the unmanned aerial vehicle was spotted near the northern edge of the fire Thursday evening.
“It could have been a very critical situation had it been any earlier," Perry said. "Luckily it was at night and our air operation had stopped.”
An air tanker and a helicopter were working over the fire earlier in the day, and if they had still been flying, Perry said, officials would have called the aircraft back to base.
“It would have stopped our operations," he said. "It may have resulted in more private property being burned. There’s all sorts of bad things that could have happened if it had been there just a little bit earlier.”
Federal law makes it a crime to interfere with firefighters on federal land. Perry said the case has been turned over to the Cochise County Sheriff’s Department for investigation.
The Lizard Fire started Wednesday from a lightning strike.