Arizona firefighters face social-distancing test in Cave Creek blaze

May 19, 2020, 10:25 AM | Updated: 12:33 pm

(Twitter Photo/Arizona State Forestry)...

(Twitter Photo/Arizona State Forestry)

(Twitter Photo/Arizona State Forestry)

PHOENIX – Firefighters battling a blaze north of Phoenix are facing their first big test in social distancing during a sizable assignment.

The East Desert Fire burning in Cave Creek has been contained 50% at 1,492 acres, fire officials said Tuesday.

About 250 personnel were at the scene of the fire, making it difficult to stick to federal guidelines on staying at least 6 feet from anyone else to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

“A fire like this one, where we need more resources, it’s hard to keep people spread out from another,” Arizona Forestry and Fire Management spokeswoman Tiffany Davila said Monday.

But firefighters are practicing distancing when possible.

Camp set-up is less conventional than previous years. Firefighters and support personnel won’t be able to gather in close quarters to eat or take breaks.

“On a smaller-size fire it’s easy,” Davila said. “We don’t need as many resources.

“But the way they work fires is working next to each other.”

More personnel had been on standby to join the crew Monday night on the human-caused blaze, but temperatures dropped and humidity increased to help the efforts.

The fire was contained enough Tuesday afternoon that the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office lifted the evacuation order that eventually sent about 130 homes to shelter at Cactus Shadows High School.

Residents could begin to return around 6 p.m., as along as fire conditions warranted it. Some had been away from home since late Sunday.

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Jim Cross contributed to this report.

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Arizona firefighters face social-distancing test in Cave Creek blaze