Saturday House Fire Lights Up Night Sky

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An unattended space heater is suspected in a Saturday night fire that destroyed a Payson home.

William Maher and family were away when the blaze destroyed their home on Evergreen Circle in north Payson, just west of the Swiss Village Shops.

The fire was reported at 10:03 p.m. and when firefighters arrived, they found a two-story home engulfed in flames.

"The homeowners were out at the time the fire was reported, only to return to find their house on fire, and firefighters extinguishing the blaze," said Payson Fire Marshal Jack Babb.

Luckily, he said, the couple's three children were visiting grandparents in Oregon.

"The investigation revealed that the probable cause of the fire was an unattended portable space heater in a bathroom," Babb said. Once the flame sparked on the main floor of the home, he said, the fire spread quickly through the living room, then up the open staircase to the second floor.

It took 21 firefighters from the Payson and Diamond-Star fire departments about 10 minutes to bring the inferno under control, Babb said, and about another 90 minutes to completely extinguish the blaze.

In the end, the fire damaged or destroyed nearly all of the family's belongings, with an estimated loss of property to be around $90,000, Babb said. Family pets, including dogs, an iguana and a rat were spared; but the family's parrot died in the fire.

"The doors of two bedrooms on the main floor were closed," Babb said. "They sustained very little damage. The door between the garage and the house was also closed. Nothing was damaged in the garage."

The Mahers are staying with family in Mesa while they try to salvage the remains of their charred home.

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