Sam Perez and his family were on their way to a Rocky Point vacation when they were stopped at the Arizona-Mexico border with the news:
An explosion in Strawberry that rocked houses more than a half-mile away destroyed their home.
The initial explosion led 9-1-1 calls to the Pine-Strawberry Fire Department, just after 4:30 p.m. Thursday.
Strawberry resident Annetta Follmer was on her way home from her parent's house when she passed the Perez home on Dan's Highway. She said she heard the explosion and saw the immediate result.
The east side of the home was blown out, Follmer told investigators. She got as close as she could, checking for people and pets.
The blaze sent a tower of thick black smoke into the afternoon sky, attracting friends, neighbors and onlookers.
Flames engulfed the home as fire crews arrived. Relying on mutual aid, two Pine-Strawberry engine crews were assisted by crews from the Payson, Mesa del and Diamond-Star fire departments, as well as crews from the U.S. Forest Service.
The firefighters took positions on each side of the home in an effort to protect the neighboring homes.
One of the two family dogs was found running loose Thursday night, another is still missing. The Perezes are asking neighbors to keep an eye out for their tan English bulldog, which answers to the name "Biscuit."
The family cat was only slightly injured in the fire, suffering singed fur on its face.
Friday morning, investigators confirmed that the fire started in the east-end of the home.