/ Modified jun 12, 2017 2:50 p.m.

Cochise County Fire at 15K Acres, 15% Contained

'Hard evacuation' notice issued for area around Cochise Stronghold.

Lizard fire 061017 hero Plane drops retardant on the Lizard Fire, burning near Cochise Stronghold in Southeastern Arizona June 9, 2017.
Courtesy Incident Information System

A wildfire burning since Wednesday near Cochise County's Dragoon Mountains reached 14,954 acres at 15 percent containment as of Monday afternoon, the U.S. Forest Service reported.

The Cochise County Sheriff’s Department reinstated what it called a "hard evacuation notice" for the area of Cochise Stronghold due to the Lizard Fire, 50 miles east of Tucson. Electricity to some of the sparsely populated area had been cut off because the fire threatened a transmission line.

Officials held a meeting Sunday where they informed those attending that the power lines were no longer threatened, adding that no more outages were expected, according to the Inciweb incident information website.

The Cochise County Sheriff's Office also said more favorable weather conditions were expected throughout Monday so that firefighters could “capitalize” on work they had done over the weekend to contain the blaze, which was started by lightning and driven by winds.

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.

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