NEAR WADDELL, AZ (3TV/CBS5) -- Hikers and bikers in the White Tank Mountain Regional Park were evacuated from the trails and park is temporarily closed after a wildfire broke out in the area early Thursday evening.

The Tank Fire has burned about 128 acres and is 60 percent contained on the southeast side of the park. The Surprise Police Department said White Tank Park is temporarily shut down while crews try to put out the fire. The Arizona Department of Forestry and Fire Management said the flames were caused by humans but not sure exactly how yet. 

One of our viewers who was less than a mile away described seeing heavy brown smoke, and then seeing red/orange flames across the top of the peaks.

No injuries have been reported from the fire.

[SPECIAL SECTION: Arizona Wildfires]

The fire is burning on the southeast side of the park, about 3 1/2 miles west of Waddell. The White Tank Mountain Regional Park is located west of the Phoenix area. It's the largest regional park in the county, and is known as a rugged area with trails for hiking, biking and horseback riding.

It has been a hot, dry day, and this is the third wildfire to break out around our state. Earlier in the day the 190-acre Purcell Fire started burning southwest of Anthem. That fire was located west of Interstate 17 and Daisy Mountain Drive near the federal prison.

Later, the Park Fire forced 150 homes to evacuate in Bagdad in Yavapai County. That fire was burning in the neighborhood of Lindahl, Navaho and east Park drives. YCSO had sent out a Code Red "Go" message to people who live in the area. Just after 7:30 p.m., the evacuations were lifted. 

The Arizona Department of Forestry and Fire Management has its own wildfire risk portal aimed at helping individual communities and homeowners prepare. The site lets homeowners type in their address to see their individual wildfire risk and threat.

“One of the biggest pushes that we do throughout the year is working with homeowners to create defensible space around their property,” Davila said. “It’s a two-way street. We have to do our part and the homeowners have to do their part as well.”

For homeowners, that means making sure their grass is cut, their gutters and roofs are clean, there are no dead trees and limbs hanging over their houses, grills are moved away from homes and more.

Thode said there are other preparations that are often overlooked: Whether there is a prescribed fire or wildfire, she said, people tend not to prepare for the amount of smoke in the air, making it harder to breathe and see, especially with high winds.

“Being prepared ahead of time, having a plan for your family, having a list of the kinds of things that you would take if you were evacuated, those become even more important for elderly folks and people with disabilities so that those lists are in place and someone could come in and help after being handed a list,” Thode said.

She said it’s particularly important to take preventive actions this year, when firefighters will face the challenges of battling blazes while coping COVID-19. Arizonans should be raking their pine needles, cleaning out their gutters, holding off on starting campfires at the wrong times and taking other measures to “work ahead of time because that always keeps the risk to our firefighters down.”

“It’s harder to fight fire safely this year,” Thode said, noting that fewer fires will mean less time firefighters and others are exposed to the COVID-19 virus.


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