Arson Suspected In Mesa Del Fire

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Mesa del Fire Chief Frank Hansen said his heart was in his throat Monday night as he responded to a fire that eventually destroyed a vacant mobile home in Mesa del.

"We can't even have barbecues out here because it's so dry," he said Tuesday. "Then, to have an inferno like this ... it was scary."

A neighbor who lives up the street from the single-wide mobile home near the corner of Caballero and Barranca described the fire as an instant inferno.

"I live in a two-story house in Mesa del, and from my second story, I can see over the entire neighborhood," Frank Fader said. "One minute, there was no fire. The next minute, the building was completely involved at both ends."

And because the fire burned so quickly, fire investigators said Tuesday that they suspect the blaze was started by arson.

The fire, Hansen said, started in a vacant single-wide mobile home at the corner of Caballero and Barranca roads. When Hansen arrived at 9:27 p.m. two minutes within the first alarm he said he found the trailer fully engulfed, with flames shooting 30 to 40 feet in the air.

With crews from the Mesa del, Payson and Whispering Pines fire departments, the chief said the blaze was under control in about 15 minutes.

"We were concerned about the trailer next door it was pretty dang close," Hansen said. "But with the help of the crews from Payson and Whispering Pines, and of course, Mesa del, we were able to stop the spread of the fire and contain it. This could have been much, much worse."

With the fire extinguished, crews began mopping up the area around 11 p.m. Additional crews from the fire department stayed on scene all night to handle flare-ups.

Members of the sheriff's posse also stayed all night to protect the potential crime scene.

"Witness statements indicate this may have been arson," Payson Fire Marshal Jack Babb said. "The actual scene also indicates that. The fire burned very fast in a very short period of time, which would indicate that some type of accelerant was used. This was possible arson."

"I've seen a lot of fires," Fader said. "I've never seen one go up as fast as this one did."

Babb and Gila County Sheriff's detectives are investigating the scene, and as of Tuesday, no suspects had been identified.

Anyone with information about the fire in Mesa del Caballo can call Babb at 474-5242, ext. 3, or Det. George Ratliff at 474-2208.

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