Murphy fire expected to merge with Pajarita fire

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TUCSON, Ariz. -- As the Murphy fire moves south of Tubac, the new Pajarita fire moves north and now the two fires are expected to merge.

Firefighters are working on a strategy to take out the blaze that's grown to more than 37,000 acres.

Rio Rico is blanketted with an eerie haze.  Off in the distance, smoke plumes rise from the edge of the Murphy fire.

"What we're doing actually is starving the fire of fuel," said Fire Prevention Officer Anthony Montiel.

Montiel says firefighters are working on making a barrier extending south and then west to isolate the Murphy fire while closing in on the 500 acre Pajarita fire

The nearby communities are much safer now that firefighters have performed what they call burn out operations, but the fire continues to grow in size.

Air support is key now.  About 500 firefighters are working on the ground, but steep rocky terrain prevents them from reaching certain areas.

"We've got pretty adequate dip sites to support folks with the water resources," said Helicopter Supervisor Michael Scott.

The three helicopters based nearby do more than just dump water on the fire site.

"Whether it's GPS type of missions for mapping, whether it's aerial observation to get knowledge of fire situation and behavior," said Scott.

High temps and strong winds continue to pose problems. Fire officials expect the situation to get worse before it gets better.