This is not a definitive list of all the fires in Tucson and Pima County, rather it is a list of more well-known fires. The Greater Tucson Fire Foundation has created an archive of news clippings for all the major fires in Tucson. Older incidents, 1915-1949 can be viewed at 1915 to 1949 Major Incidents, 2nd Edition, opens a new window.
On June 5, 2020, a lightning strike ignited a fire in the Catalina Mountains that ended up burning almost 120,000 acres of wilderness. It was not 100% contained until July 23, when rain from the monsoons helped extinguish the last of the fire. Summerhaven was evacuated, and Mount Lemmon and Sabino Canyon were closed for most of the summer. While the fire covered a larger area than the 2003 Aspen Fire, it mostly avoided damaging human property, and no lives were lost as a direct result of the blaze. The Bighorn Fire did significant damage to wildlife habitats in the mountains and impacted air quality and water runoff that summer.
Started June 17, 2003 on Mount Lemmon. Mount Lemmon was evacuated on the evening of June 17. The fire was contained on July 15, 2003. The Aspen fire burned 84,750 acres. It destroyed 333 structures. It burned down most of the community of Summerhaven.
Reported May 12, 2002. Mount Lemmon was evacuated on May 26. The fire was contained on June 10, 2002. Rehabilitation work began on June 6, 2002. Acreage burned 30,563.
Fire and explosions at the Tucson Newspapers Inc. newspaper plant
There was a fire and explosions at the Tucson Newspapers Inc. main plant on July 22, 1982. The exact cause of the explosion was not known, but may have been caused by water from storms seeping into the electrical system. This explosion injured 11 people, one person died.
Fire and explosion at Supreme Cleaners
Occurred March 29, 1963. Six people died. Thirty-two people were injured in the blast.(The address of Supreme Cleaners was 2332 N. Stone. Near Grant Road and Stone Avenue.) This explosion was caused by a natural gas leak. One of the cleaner’s owners, Harris Salonic, turned off a light switch when leaving the basement of the plant and this ignited gas fumes. Harris Salonic was one of the people killed in the explosion.
Flowing Wells Branch Library Fire
Occurred February 13, 2013. Motorists passing by the Flowing Wells Branch of the Pima County Public Library, located at 1730 W. Wetmore Road, saw smoke and called 911. When the Northwest Fire District arrived and entered the building, fire was discovered in storage areas and a bathroom. 30 firefighters subdued the fire in about half an hour. According to an article from the Arizona Daily Star, Northwest Fire District Capt. Adam Goldberg estimated the cost of fire-related damages as being between $4,000 and $6,000. The library was closed for six days in order to repair those damages, and reopened on February 19, 2013.
Hidden Valley Inn Fire
Occurred August 7, 1995. This restaurant was totally destroyed but there was no loss of life. (The address of Hidden Valley Inn was 4825 N. Sabino Canyon Road. Restaurant closed in 2006.) The Hidden Valley Inn was known for having a collection of wood carvings by Jean Le Roy. The wood carvings were a miniature circus, an old western village, Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show and 25 Indian settlements. All of these wood carvings were removed from the restaurant before the fire.
Hotel Congress Fire
Occured Janurary 22, 1934. The fire is reported to have be begun in the basement and spread to the third floor through the hotel elevator. The fire led to the later arrest of the infamous John Dillinger who was hiding out at the hotel after committing a number of robberies.
Old Tucson Fire
Occurred April 24, 1995. Even though 40% of Old Tucson was destroyed there were no fatalities. (The address of Old Tucson is 201 S. Kinney Road.)
Pioneer Hotel Fire
Occurred December 20, 1970. (The address of the Pioneer Hotel was 100 N. Stone-- the building is still standing-- you will find references works that say it is torn down--but it is an office building now.) There were 29 people killed including Steinfeld and his wife. Louis C. Taylor (16 at the time of the fire) was sentenced to life in prison on 28 counts of murder. As part of a plea deal in 2013, Taylor agreed to plead no contest in the case; in return, the original charges against Taylor were set aside and he was credited for time served. Taylor was released from prison on April 2, 2013.
"Delehanty is a 47-year Star, TNI employee." Arizona Daily Star. July 23, 1982. Page A3.
"Explosion rocks Star's plant, leaving 7 injured, and 4 critically." Arizona Daily Star. July 23, 1982. Page 1.
"Firefighters control fire at Flowing Wells library, opens a new window." Arizona Daily Star. February 13, 2013.
"Flowing Wells library to reopen Tuesday after fire, opens a new window." Arizona Daily Star. February 15, 2013.
"Hidden Valley carvings spared." Tucson Citizen. August 9, 1995. Page C1.
"Man held 42 years in deadly Tucson Pioneer Hotel fire to be released, opens a new window." Arizona Daily Star. March 31, 2013.
"No decision on Hidden Valley Inn." Arizona Daily Star. August 9, 1995. Page B1.
"Tucson Time Capsule: Circus in Miniature, circa 1978." Arizona Daily Star. June 2, 2008. Page B5.
"Weeks later than usual, Tucson monsoon makes 1st big splash - Thunderstorms in Southern Arizona expected through middle of next week." Arizona Daily Star: July 24, 2020.
“Fire on the mountain: Local experts discuss causes, damages and fighting the Bighorn Wildfires.” Arizona Daily Wildcat: August 15, 2020.
“Smoke brings worst air pollution Tucson has seen in past nine years - The Tucson area has recorded 6 days of excessive ozone levels since mid-August.” Arizona Daily Star, August 29, 2020.
Find the information you need by calling the library's Infoline at 520-791-4010 or by sending your question to Ask a Librarian.