Lightning Sparks Fire, Burns House

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Lightning struck a house on East Flowing Springs Road Monday, sparking a fire that burned the house to the ground and threatened the Tonto National Forest.

Firefighters from Diamond Star, Payson and Mesa del Caballo responded to the fire, which was reported at 2:36 p.m. Monday.

When firefighters arrived, the house was engulfed in flames and had spread to a few nearby trees, Payson Fire Chief John Ross said. Firefighters were able to save the family's ATVs and a few other belongings, but the house was lost, he said.

"It was a defensive operation," the chief said. "The Forest Service called us out to keep the fire from spreading to the forest. It burned a couple of trees, but they kept the area protected."

The monsoon that started the blaze, the first of the season, brought a mix of fire and rain to the rest of the Tonto, as well.

The storm dropped .12 inches of rain on the Tonto, which has only had .04 inches of rain since April, and lightning from the storm sparked 25 forest fires.

A lightning strike on the east side of Mt. Ord started the largest fire, which was measured at 100 acres from the air Monday afternoon. Four Hot Shot crews and a helicopter crew were sent Tuesday to fight the fire, which has been named the Haufner Fire.

The moisture and high dew points brought by the storm are keeping the fire in check, Public Information Officer Jim Payne of the Tonto National Forest said Tuesday.

During the storm, three seasonal workers for the Forest Service who were responding to one of the fires were hurt when the car they were standing by was struck by lightning. They were all treated for minor injuries.

Lightning sparked the Flowing Springs house fire and five other fires in the Tonto's Payson Ranger District.

All the fires were small -- less than a quarter of an acre, said Pat Velasco, the Payson Ranger District's fire management officer.

"They were spread out from here until breakfast," he said. The fires burned small areas near Colcord Road, Hunter Creek, west of Mesa del Caballo and two places near La Cienaga Ranch, he said.

"We also had one man-caused fire Sunday that was about the size of my desk," he said. "Apparently some children were playing with matches near Kohl's Ranch and caught the forest on fire." That fire was contained.

"We woke up to one more tiny fire this morning (Tuesday)," Velasco said. "With all that lightning activity, we'll probably have five or six more sleepers -- fires that smolder until 10 or 11, when the sun hits them and they flare up."

The rain brought by Monday's storm, however, should temporarily take some of the edge off the fire danger, he said. "We got some real good rain all over the district."

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