Dr. Scott Anderson stood on his front lawn Monday night watching as firefighters battled the blaze in his neighbor's garage on Remuda Way.
"The sparks dropped like rain," he said. "We were a little worried about our trees because it's been so dry lately."
The Andersons discovered the fire when Lou Ann Anderson heard a noise coming from the house next door. The Andersons' neighbor is only a part-time Payson resident, and had not been home for a couple of weeks. Ann alerted her husband, who went out to the street to investigate.
"I didn't know if somebody was trying to break in or what was going on," he said Tuesday morning. "Then I heard a fairly large bang that sounded like firecrackers. I walked over and that's when I saw the smoke and called the fire department."
Fire crews were dispatched at 8:27 p.m. and within four minutes arrived at the sparsely populated neighborhood, which is surrounded by dense brush.
Fire marshal Jack Babb said by the time crews arrived, about three-quarters of the detached garage was on fire. Inside the brick-sided building, a Ford Bronco and motorboat burned, while small explosions kept fire crews on their toes.
"We're not sure yet what those were," Babb said. "It could have been a propane tank. It could have been the pop-off relief valves off the propane tank."
"It sounded like ammunition going off," assistant fire chief Don Rose said.
Babb said he suspects the fire began in the northeast corner of the garage. The fire destroyed the two-car garage and singed a nearby arbor and a few trees.
At this point, investigators don't suspect foul play, Babb said, and they're trying to locate the homeowner to determine the last time anyone was at the house.
"The garage was locked up. The garage door was in the down position, and we found a deadbolt melted off in a lock (on the door)," he said.
"We had 26 firefighters on scene, either fighting the fire or ready to be dispatched from here," Babb said. Firefighting efforts included three Payson engines, six volunteers from the department's rehab unit and nine firefighters from the Diamond-Star department plus one of their engines. The fire was completely out by 9:25 p.m.