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Evacuation orders lifted for East Desert Fire after burning 1,500 acres with 80% containment

The fire burning north of Cave Creek Regional Park remained at 1,492 acres. Containment on the fire increased to 80% on Wednesday.

CAVE CREEK, Ariz. — Editor's note: The above video is from a Wednesday morning newscast. 

Containment on a brush fire burning 1,492 acres in north Phoenix near Cave Creek has increased to 80% as of Wednesday, according to the Arizona Department of Forestry. 

The East Desert Fire, which was burning near 24th Street and Desert Hills Drive, has stayed steady at just under 1,500 acres since it first sparked on Sunday. 

The fire quickly spread to hundreds of acres Sunday afternoon, fueled by wind through dry grass and brush. 

About 132 homes were evacuated as of Monday morning, but none have been lost. 

Evacuation orders were lifted at 6 p.m. Tuesday. All residents were allowed back in their homes. 

The fire is 80% contained, firefighters said Wednesday. 


The Red Cross of Arizona established an Emergency Evacuation Center at the main gym at the Cactus Shadows High School.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency authorized the use of federal funds to assist the state in fighting the fire Monday afternoon. The agency will provide up to 75% of eligible firefighting costs through a Fire Management Assistance Grant (FMAG).

The FMAG was authorized because the wildfire has the capability of causing enough destruction to be labeled a major disaster, FEMA Region IX regional administrator Robert J. Fenton Jr. said. 

Containment around the blaze rose up and down as crews worked to put out the fire, but the firefighters managed to hold at it at 50% containment as of Monday night.

No one has been injured in the fire, firefighters said Sunday, but many residents were forced to evacuate.

“I have a bunch of stuff up there I kind of left in a hurry last night,” said Peggy Hughes, who had to be evacuated. 

“It’s just me and the dog. We threw a couple things in the car and took off. I mean it is just things, but it’s a lot of things.”

“It was such a horrible feeling that everything you own your animals could be gone in a heartbeat.” Gilda Ferguson, a resident in the evacuation zone, said.

Ferguson said she watched the fire get a half mile from her house before being turned back by firefighters at a dirt road.

As the flames approached Sunday night, she sent out a social post for help, not for her, but for her horses.

Tom Hill and Brian Kunkel answered the call.

The two were two of many in the Cave Creek community who hitched up their trailers and rushed into danger to get animals at risk to safety.

“There must have been 100’s of trucks and trailers, hauling stock...,“ Hill said.

On Tuesday, Hill and Kunkel loaded up the horses once again, this time to bring them back home.

“You got to give them credit to the fire department..” Hill said.

Winds and dry brush caused the fire to swell quickly to over 1,400 acres by Monday morning. 

Firefighters were then able to get control of the fire, stalling its growth and containing the fire.

“If the firefighters hadn’t been there those houses would have been gone. “ Ferguson said.

And after a stressful and nerve-wracking 48 hours, Gilda and her horses are reunited at home once again.

“It’s relieve absolute relief. “Ferguson said.

The East Desert Fire was believed to be human-caused, the Arizona Department of Forestry and Fire Management said. 

The exact cause of the fire is still unknown. 

Cave Creek Regional Park was temporarily closed as crews continued to battle the fire.


Residents in evacuation areas are urged to have an emergency supplies kit to bring with them when leaving their homes.

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) recommends that residents near a disaster store emergency supplies in a plastic tub, small suitcase, trash can, backpack, or other containers. 

Residents should make sure they have the necessities, such as three gallons of water per person and a three-day supply of ready-to-eat food, the NFPA said. A first-aid kit, prescription medications, contact lenses, and non-prescription drugs should also be taken into account. 

Copies of any important family documents, including insurance policies, identification, bank account records, and emergency contact numbers should also be taken and put into a waterproof, portable container in your kit, the NFPA said. 

The association lists other items that would help in a disaster, including:

  • Sleeping bag or warm blanket for each person
  • Battery-powered or hand-cranked radio and an NOAA weather radio to receive up-to-date information
  • Dust mask or cotton T-shirt to filter the air
  • Matches in a waterproof container
  • Complete change of clothing including long pants, long sleeve shirts, and sturdy shoes stored in a waterproof container
  • Signal flare

The entire NFPA checklist of supplies can be found here.


East Desert Fire

WATCH LIVE: Sky 12 is on scene of the East Desert Fire, which has burned more than 1,500 acres in north Phoenix and forced the evacuation of at least 40 homes as of Monday morning. MORE: https://bit.ly/2X5AdKp

Posted by 12 News on Monday, May 18, 2020

This is a developing story. Tune into 12 News for the latest details. 


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