Discarded Ashes Burn House To Ground

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The Pine vacation home of a Phoenix family went up in flames Saturday night and was reduced to ashes. Fire officials have ruled the blaze accidental.

Cheryl and Robin Roberts spent spring break with their son in the cabin, and returned to Phoenix around 10 a.m. Saturday, Fire Chief Paul Coe said.

No one was home when the fire started in the northwest corner of the home near the fireplace, P-S Fire Investigator Mark Boys said.

"Apparently they put (ashes from the wood stove) in a paper bag and set them next to the kindling box inside the house," Coe said. "They thought they had separated the embers out."

Inside the home at 6259 Lamina, the fire likely smoldered for many hours, officials said. Just before 9 p.m., a rush of oxygen fueled the flames to the point where they engulfed the home. Passersby knocked on the fire station door to alert the crew on duty.

Lt. Mike Brandt and Stacy Parkerson walked out the door, and saw the inferno.

"We immediately saw 120-foot flames over the roof tops," Parkerson said.

At that same time, neighbor Don Hargrave was calling 911.

"I heard a big whoosh, looked out my back window and the house was completely engulfed in flames," Hargrave said. "I was in shock."

Afraid for his own home, Hargrave began watering down the grass and shrubs with a garden hose.

Other neighbors began packing, just in case, as others watched nervously.

"The scariest moment for me was when it climbed that tree," neighbor Frank Howard said. "All of these trees could have gone."

As dry as this year has been, a slight breeze could have fanned the flames all over the neighborhood risking many homes and lives.

"Our main objective is to protect the surrounding structures," P-S Chief Paul Coe said.

Crews from P-S and Payson shot more than 12,000 gallons of water and 1,000 gallons of foam at the fire to stop the spread.

"The flames were 100 to 120 feet in the air. When we responded the house was gone. We had to knock it out of the trees," he said.

Access to the home on narrow dirt roads was a concern.

"If these places had been built when the code was being enforced, access would not be a problem," Coe said.

Cheryl's parents, Lonnie and Opal Prince, and her sisters and brothers-in-laws built the single level cabin 20 years ago, Opal said after the fire.

"It took us seven years to finish. I remember standing on a chair and holding sheet-rock over my head," she said.

"(Lonnie) had a full collection of Zane Grey books, a lot of first editions," Robin Roberts said. "Guess we will be looking for new ones for him."

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