The Rim Country came within a whisper of losing a historic treasure Monday morning. Black smoke was seen pouring out of Body Elegance Day Spa and firefighters were called to the location at 500 W. Main St.
The spa building was constructed originally as a home around 1910 by Sam and Margaret Stewart.
In the early minutes of the fire suppression effort, firefighters worked on the porch of the home, wearing ventilators that enabled them to enter despite the great amount of smoke.
Scott Wayland, who co-owns the building with his wife Shelly, unlocked the front door allowing firefighters inside where they found an old oil heater emitting the smoke.
"The oil heater was oxygen deprived," Shelly Wayland said. "But because it was so solidly built, the heater kept the flame inside."
The Waylands consider themselves very fortunate that the heater was equipped with an on-off timer that Scott had set to turn on at 6:30 a.m. that day.
"Who would have seen the smoke if it had happened at night?" Shelly Wayland said. "I can't believe how lucky we are."
Wayland also praised the quick and thorough action of the fire department.
"The firemen were awesome, they were so quick," she said. "They came through here, saw how beautiful the place was and didn't do any damage. They saved the old historical Stewart House."
Inside the home, firemen recognized the significance of the house.
"The (firefighters) in there were saying, ‘This is beautiful. We can't imagine if this house would have burnt,'" Shelly Wayland said.
After extinguishing the burning heater, firefighters set up large exhaust fans to ensure the structure did not experience further smoke damage.
Although smoke filled almost the entire upper half of the building, there was only minor damage.
"You rub your fingers along the walls in the hallway and there is no soot," Shelly Wayland said. "We'll be open this afternoon."
After the close call, the Waylands plan to replace the oil heater with an electric one.
The home is historically unique in that its exterior walls are made of the same red sandstone blocks as the nearby Oxbow Saloon and several other Main Street buildings. The sturdy walls are 18 inches thick.
While living in the home in the early 1900s, Stewart is said to have been a Payson constable who also owned a restaurant and slaughterhouse next to the Ox Bow.
After the Waylands purchased the house in 2003, the pair oversaw a complete renovation that took them 10 months, working seven days a week to complete.
During the project, the new owners uncovered some old newspapers that were used for insulation.
"(The newspapers) talked about World War II, Hitler and Babe Ruth," Shelly Wayland said.