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1,000 residents forced to evacuate in Arizona Ocotillo brush fire

Lauren Fox

A human-caused brush fire broke out near Maricopa County, Arizona, on Saturday, covering over 1,000 acres and damaging at least 20 structures.

"State and local fire officials are working to contain the blaze, and our office is in close coordination," Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey said in a statement regarding the fire. "We continue to pray for the safety of all firefighters and first responders working to protect people, pets and property as well as everyone in the area."

Phoenix, Scottsdale, Peoria, Glendale and Guadalupe Fire Departments, Rural Metro, Daisy Mountain Fire and Arizona Fire Authority are all working to contain the fire, according to KTAR News.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) authorized the use of federal funds to aid Arizona in containing the fire, after 1,000 residents in and around Cave Creek were forced to evacuate.

(Arizona Department of Forestry and Fire Management)

"The FEMA Region IX regional administrator determined that the Ocotillo Fire threatened such destruction as would constitute a major disaster," according to a news release from FEMA.

On Sunday evening, the Arizona Department of Forestry and Fire Management (DFFM) announced that 10% of the 980 acres affected by the Ocotillo Fire have been contained. Twenty structures have been destroyed by the blaze.

Despite the progress, 500 homes remain evacuated and will continue to stay under evacuation orders until the department deems it safe to return. Evacuations are in order for Cave Creek residents in the area north of Grapevine Road, south of Spur Cross Ranch Conservation Area, east of Seven Sisters Mountain and west of School House Road.

For residents displaced due to the evacuations, The Red Cross is offering shelter at Cactus Shadows High School.


The brush fire also resulted in a closure in I-17, The Arizona Department of Transportation (DOT) announced. Furthermore, Arizona DOT said on Sunday that drivers should prepare for overnight delays on US 60 and US 70.

In early April, the DFFM predicted an active fire season for parts of the state, comparable to last year's season. Last year, 1,867 wildfires resulted in the burning of almost 400,000 acres. The DFFM said about 78% of those fires were human-made.

(Arizona Department of Forestry and Fire Management)

The Ocotillo Fire was reportedly human-made and first sparked near the seventh hole of Rancho Manana Golf Course before traveling north, according to ABC 15.

The past month has been very dry in Arizona, but AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Dave Bowers said that is normal for the month of May. In addition, he said the temperatures have been "exceptionally hot," running up to eight degrees higher than average over the past week.

Temperatures have peaked at 105 to 112 degrees in the past few days, and humidity has been around 10 to 20%.

"The extreme heat and low humidity with little chance of rain does create an ideal environment for the fire to spread," Bowers said. "The only hopeful news with the weather is that the wind will stay relatively light giving the firefighters a chance to contain it."

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