A Tonto Basin man lost his home Tuesday morning in a devastating fire after the ammunition he was loading sparked, catching fire to the 1960s home and leaving him with second- and third-degree burns.
Steve Cline, alone in his home on Bar X Road, near the Tonto Creek, about 18 miles south of Payson, was reloading cartridges around 10:30 a.m. in a bedroom when one sparked, said Tonto Fire Depart-ment public information officer Jeannine Cheek.
The spark quickly spread to the wall and up into the attic of the single story home.
Cline called 911 and left the home, but went back into the home several times to retrieve personal belongings, Cheek said.
When the fire department received the call, all seven crew members that work for the small rural fire department responded, including two who were off duty. Within 15 minutes, all were on scene with two tankers, an engine and an ambulance.
“When (the firefighters) arrived, ammunition was exploding, so they had to wait 10 to 15 minutes before they could go in,” Cheek said. “They could not get close because there was a lot of live rounds in there.”
Tonto Fire was able to keep the fire from spreading to two bedrooms, but the rest of the house was a total loss, Cheek said. Crews had the fire under control by 1 p.m.
“It was completely destroy-ed,” she said.
“It is sad for all of us down here because he has always been there. He would always check the crossing for us and he has just always been there.”
Cline suffered second- and third-degree burns on his face and hands as well as smoke inhalation. Cheek could not say if Cline was burned from the spark or from retrieving his belongings.
Cline was taken by ambulance to the Payson Regional Medical Center and then airlifted to a hospital in the Valley.
Fire officials put the damage estimate at $200,000 for property and $200,000 for contents.
Cheek said the last major fire Tonto Fire responded to was in May when Forrest Gressley’s 1870s house burned.