Arizona Sen. Barbara McGuire spent Monday night at the end of a garden hose in defiance of a mandatory evacuation order, fighting back ash and floating embers in an effort to protect her Kearny home, which is located approximately one mile from a 300-acre wildfire.
McGuire’s home was one of 200 properties under mandatory evacuation on the southern end of Kearny, where the Shipman Fire had rapidly spread after starting at about 5 p.m., The Arizona Republic reported.
The Democratic senator posted a photo of the fire on Facebook that showed billowing smoke rising into the sky a mile from her home at about 7 p.m. Monday night.
After heading into town to ensure that resources were being brought in to help those who evacuated – the American Red Cross set up an evacuation center at Ray Elementary School, according to The Republic – McGuire returned to her home to battle the blaze with her husband.
Pinal County Sheriff’s officials evacuated several hundred people from their homes overnight.
When asked what emergency officials thought of her returning to protect her home, McGuire told the Arizona Capitol Times, “I didn’t ask. I did what I had to do. I wasn’t about to risk my life, no way. If it had jumped in my front yard, I was ready to go in a heartbeat.”
McGuire said she and her husband took turns putting out floating embers and keeping her front yard wet to discourage the fire from spreading to her home. Smoke was so thick she had to put a wet rag over her mouth to breathe while outside, she said.
“It was literally just across the way outside my house,” McGuire said. “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.”
McGuire and her husband had packed a car with some belongings and their dog to be ready to flee her property if necessary, she said.
The senator told the Capitol Times she could see crews approximately one-quarter of a mile from her home digging a line between the town and the Shipman Fire.
While one home in Kearny was destroyed, officials reported no injuries. As of Tuesday morning, fires had diminished but were still not contained, and approximately 100 crew members were on the ground fighting the blaze, The Republic reported.
The fire easily spread after starting in the Gila River bed, which has been dry for months and is full of cottonwood trees and brush. McGuire likened it to a huge timber box.
“It spread this fire like nobody’s business. That’s why I was so amazed at the skill and expertise of these firefighters,” McGuire said. “If they hadn’t been called as early on as they were, I don’t think we would’ve had the good results that we had. I think we would have had a catastrophic event.”