1,500-acre Cave Creek fire reaches 50% containment
PHOENIX — Firefighters made progress as they continued to battle a fire burning near Cave Creek Regional Park that had expanded to about 1,500 acres early Monday, according to Arizona fire officials.
The Arizona Department of Forestry reported at 7:16 p.m. that firefighters had increased containment to 50%.
Although earlier evacuation orders remained in place, the department confirmed that the spread and activity of the fire had slowed.
Monday PM UPDATE- #EastDesertFire mapped at 1,492 acres & is 50% contained. Firefighters cont. to make progress establishing & securing containment lines & w/structure protection. Per #AZForestry IC, evac orders REMAIN in place. Fire activity/spread has slowed #AZFIRE #CaveCreek
— AZ State Forestry (@azstateforestry) May 19, 2020
The human-caused East Desert Fire tripled in size since Rural Metro Fire’s estimate of 500 acres Sunday evening, but no homes had been lost.
The fire was only about 20% contained by around 8 a.m., according to the Arizona Department of Forestry. About 130 homes had been evacuated, the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office said.
“This is not one of those things that is over in a couple of hours. It’s actually terrifying,” Cave Creek Mayor Ernie Bunch told KTAR News 92.3 FM early Monday.
About 30 homes were immediately threatened, Daisy Mountain Fire and Medical spokesman Paul Schickel said, but so far only a recreational vehicle and a shed had been lost.
Mandatory evacuation orders moved out people from Morning Star Road south to Ocotillo Road and from 55th Street to the Seven Sisters Mountain Range.
The fire broke out in a 5- to 8-acre stretch near 24th Street and Desert Hills Drive around 1 p.m.
Crews had managed 40% containment by 8 p.m., Arizona Forestry spokeswoman Tiffany Davila said, but winds pushed the flames through dry vegetation into canyons and washes and the percentage fell.
The fire department and other agencies called upon aircraft and helicopters to drop water and fire retardant onto the flames.
About 400 personnel had been assigned to the blaze. More were expected by nightfall to push the total to around 500, including six hotshot crews.
Red Cross Arizona has moved temporary shelter for evacuees to the Cactus Shadows High School gym from the Cave Creek Town Hall.
Evacuees must wear a face mask and adhere to coronavirus social distancing guidelines, the humanitarian relief organization said.
KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Jim Cross contributed to this report.