The area near Phoenix International Raceway was hot last weekend, for all the wrong reasons.
Instead of burning rubber from race cars, smoke poured over the West Valley from a wild fire ignited in a riverbed before sundown Friday, June 26.
The fire raged Friday night and Saturday, growing to nearly 1,000 acres.
An evacuation was ordered at 10 p.m. June 26 for some residents of south Avondale. It was lifted the next day.
Crews from Goodyear, Avondale and fire departments around the West Valley worked intensely to protect homes, and the evacuation order was lifted Saturday night.
Late Sunday, the fire was 80% contained, according to Arizona Department of Forestry and Fire Management spokeswoman Tiffany Davila. “The cause of the fire is under investigation,” Davila said.
According to a Federal Emergency Management Agency spokesman, “Arizona submitted a request for a Fire Management Assistance Grant for the Avondale Fire. At the time of the request, the fire threatened approximately 150 homes in and around Avondale, with mandatory evacuations in place for all 150 residences.”
The blaze shows the frightening power of wildfires in the summer, which can chew through dry bushes and trees like a football team at a buffet.
“New fire start,” Arizona State Forestry posted at 6 p.m. June 26. “#AvondaleFire, 5 acres. Fire burning thru river bottom in salt cedar and pushing up thick smoke.”
The post said it started near El Mirage and West Indian Springs roads, just west of the raceway.
An hour later came another post: “Due to more accurate info from fire command, #AvondaleFire is 500 acres. A majority of acreage is due to firing (operations). Crews will work into the night to suppress fire. Fire in salt cedar (within the) riverbed and is burning very hot and producing heavy smoke.”
Four hours after the fire began, about 50 residents were ordered to evacuate.
In a Friday night email, the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office said, “A ‘Go’ notification has been issued for the #Avondale Fire due to a brushfire. ... near El Mirage Road. People included in the evacuation are those in the area south of Southern Avenue, north of Indian Spring Road, west of 119th Avenue, east of El Mirage.”
The morning of Saturday, June 27, residents of south Avondale and southeast Goodyear woke up to heavy smoke.
At that time, Arizona State Forestry said the 980-acre fire was only 5% contained.
Later Saturday, a forestry department post said crews and a bulldozer established a control line on the fire’s west flank.
“Firefighters trying to keep fire to the north and push it around the homes. Helicopter assisting,” the post said.
Good news came late Saturday night. “AZ State Forestry crews are making progress on the #AvondaleFire. It is now 40% contained. ... Crews will work overnight to monitor and secure control line.”