FLORENCE, AZ - Residents were allowed to return Tuesday to about 100 of the 200 homes evacuated in the small southern Arizona town of Kearny after a destructive wildfire burning in a dry riverbed was 5 percent contained.
The town 73 miles southeast of Phoenix survived several hours without electricity Tuesday. Salt River Project shut off power to the entire town at 1:50 p.m. as a precaution, but it was restored before 6 p.m.
Pinal County authorities said mobile phone service was disrupted by the fire, but was restored around 9:30 p.m.
The Shipman Fire had earlier threatened the home of state Sen. Barbara McGuire, who chose to fight the blaze with a garden hose.
McGuire said she and her husband took turns putting out floating embers and keeping their front yard wet to keep flames away early Tuesday.
"It was literally just across the way outside my house," McGuire told the Arizona Capitol Times "At about 3:30 in the morning, it just became huge. I was terrified. The embers were floating across this wash right in front of my house."
The smoke outside was so thick, McGuire said she had to put a wet rag over her mouth to breathe.
She and her husband packed a car with some belongings and their dog and were prepared to flee the property if necessary.
"I wasn't about to risk my life," McGuire said. "If it had jumped in my front yard, I was ready to go in a heartbeat."
The fire has charred an estimated 300 acres of dense vegetation in the San Pedro River bed and burned at least one house.
County Sheriff's officials said the fire was started by lightning strikes just after 5 p.m. Monday.
"This is the biggest fire that we've ever had. We don't want to evacuate from our home. It's pretty scary, friends and family losing their homes, it's horrible," said evacuee Sherri Collins.
Fire management spokeswoman Dolores Garcia said at least 100 firefighters were battling the wildfire and that number was to at least double on Tuesday.
A high-level fire management team is expected to take charge by early Wednesday, according to Garcia.
Firefighters were using a bulldozer and other equipment to protect homes and the town's airstrip, said Garcia, adding that crews were helped overnight by lower temperatures and higher humidity.
The American Red Cross said 25 people stayed Monday night in a shelter set up in an elementary school in Kearny.
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