Residents Breathe Sigh Of Relief After Forest Fire



The communities of Christopher Creek, Kohl's Ranch, Tonto Village and especially Thompson Draw got a taste last Wednesday of what a forest fire can really do. Residents were once again standing by to see if we were going to be evacuated.

When Highway 260 was shut down, children from the Bible Fellowship Church and Baptist Camp were stranded until it was reopened.


Members of the Christopher/Kohl's Fire Department responded to help fight the Ponderosa Fire last Wednesday.

The Ponderosa Fire was reported at 11:10 a.m., and when Christopher/Kohl's Fire Department arrived on the scene, the fire was going fast and hard. All agencies were called in -- Payson, Diamond Star, Tonto Village, Forest Service and several hotshot crews.

Those who responded from Christopher/Kohl's were Fire Chief Ray Larsen, Steve Sundra, Rick Schantz, Sam Seay, Randy Slapnicka, George Alhmann, Scotty VanEchoutte and Electra Hamblen.

Scotty and Electra said that the initial attack was from Ponderosa group camp with several slurry bombers working from the air. The dozers were cutting a line and helicopters were dumping water. Many brush units, water tenders, and engines were all working fast to stop this fire from destroying many homes in Thompson Draw 2.

By late evening, the fire was almost under control with total containment after 36 hours of hard work. Christopher/Kohl's Fire Department had its brush truck, two water tenders, and a command unit on scene from the beginning.

Those who helped

There was a tremendous show of support from the community. Meals were prepared by Creekside and the Landmark for the firefighters with a minute's notice and we thank them for their help.

Rod Britain, Marty Schantz and Bobbie Jo Schantz helped make and deliver food.

Jack Kalmar and Jim Oliver helped with the generator at the station.

Michael Schulte and Sandy Kalmar gathered coolers and ice.

John Zaleska manned the radio and donated soda to the firefighters.

Caren Christian was on standby to help out in any way she could, and offered the use of her cell phone when the phone lines went down.

Steve Graham took care of the elderly when the power went out and made sure everyone was OK.

Josh Olson, Debbie Dawson and Curt Drinkwine from Forest Lakes were at the station on standby.

Dispatcher Vicki Grootegoed kept her cool and handled the phones and radio. I think she stayed there all night.

Chief Ray Larsen thanks everyone who helped. Thanks to all the men and women who fought this fire and got it contained before it harmed anyone or any structures.

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