Late-night travelers were delayed for about an hour Sunday night as a full-size motor home burned to the ground on the Beeline Highway.
Officers from the Arizona Department of Public Safety were notified of the fire at 10:45 p.m. near milepost 220, 30 miles south of Payson.
Motorists reported seeing a couple unhook their truck from the burning motor home and continue on their way, Officer Pete Padilla said.
When officers arrived, the entire motor home was engulfed in flames on the shoulder of the new section of highway at Kitty Joe Canyon. Before the vehicle's license plate had a chance to melt, Officer Dennis Buller braved the searing heat to write down the plate number. The owners, Lanis and Shirley Owens, were nowhere to be found.
Officers closed the northbound lane of the highway, and about 50 motorists were stranded in their cars as firefighters battled the blaze.
Propane tanks sizzled and tires popped, sending burning embers and smoke high into the air.
As the fire spread from the front of the vehicle to the rear, two gas tanks ruptured and shot a white-hot stream of fire downward, scorching the asphalt.
Crews from the Payson Fire Department responded with an engine and water tender to extinguish what was left of the 1984 Executive-model coach.
Firefighters were also able to prevent the fire from spreading.
The highway was reopened at about 11:45 p.m. and the incident is still under investigation.