A house fire early Friday morning in Strawberry claimed the lives of Mike and Janet Carter.
Just after 5 a.m., a neighbor reported seeing flames leaping through the roof.
Captain Harris Scott and Lt. Lynn Larned were the first Pine-Strawberry firefighters on the scene. They found the second story fully engulfed and flames had vented through the roof. Larned also noticed cars in the driveway.
"Harris and I pulled up and the first thing we do is a lap around the house. I was yelling, ‘Carter, Carter get out of there!'" Larned said.
Larned kicked in the front door in an attempt to get inside, but found thick, black smoke and flames meeting him at the door.
"I knew it was too late and we went defensive from there," he said.
Firefighters work to keep the fire out of the trees and away from other homes. At about 6 a.m. the fire was considered contained.
Working with the Gila County Sheriff's detectives, firefighters located both bodies at about 1 p.m. that afternoon. Both have been shipped to Tucson for positive identification.
According to Larned, the cause of the fire is still undetermined.
"The whole house was so destroyed, we might never know what started that fire."
This is the first structural fire fatality that anyone in the Pine-Strawberry Fire Department can remember.
Owners of MBC Drywall and active residents, the Carters raised their 20-year-old son, Matt, in Pine-Strawberry. Both members of large families, loved ones say they have been overwhelmed by the support and compassion shown by the community.
A Celebration of Life will be held at 1:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 26 at the Pine Community Center on Highway 87 in Pine. A community reception and potluck will follow at the Black Bear Restaurant in Strawberry.