Despite battling dense smoke, sweltering temperatures and heat exhaustion, firefighters managed to save one Chaparral Pines home Saturday evening, but lost two neighboring high-end homes during a three-hour fight.
Dark smoke billowed throughout the Rim Country for hours after the fire started, leading residents even miles away to think a wildfire had broken out. No one was injured.
The blaze apparently started in a pile of rags left on the deck by a painting contractor who was re-sealing the house, said fire department investigators.
Around 4:30 p.m., the fire department received three calls from passersby who reported a large, wood home on fire in Chaparral Pines in the 1700 block of East Snapdragon.
The first fire truck arrived on the scene eight minutes later and found a home, at 1702 E. Snapdragon, completely involv-ed, said Payson Fire Chief Marty deMasi.
A home to the west, at 1700 E. Snapdragon, had also caught fire in the attic through radiation heat, he said.
Firefighters immediately began hosing both homes and entered the 1702 home to fight the blaze from the inside.
However, when crews pulled down the ceiling, they found the fire had spread throughout the attic, compromising the structure of the roof.
Not wanting to risk firefighters’ safety, the crew was pulled from inside the home.
“The conditions were deteriorating rapidly,” he said. “We like to get inside and apply water directly, but we don’t want to risk firefighters’ lives any more than we have to.”
Working from the outside, more than 45 firefighters from five departments battled the fire for more than three hours.
At one point, crews let fire consume just the roof, so crews could get water inside the home.
Crews worried the fire would spread to a home east of where the fire originally started, but that home was saved from any damage.
Chief deMasi said he believed the fire spread to the 1702 home through a combination of radiation and convection.
“A fire puts out a tremendous amount of heat,” he said. “The heat was pressing out to the other house.”
As crews got the fires under control, a tremendous amount of smoke filled the air. deMasi compared it to putting out a campfire. As you add water, more smoke is produced. Couple that with a lack of wind and storm clouds, and the smoke sat over the area for some time.
Several firefighters were treated on scene for heat exhaustion, but none were seriously injured.
“It was a very hot day with highs in the 90s,” deMasi said. “Even water on the pavement was steaming.”
Chief deMasi said the fire started on the west side of the back porch. The home was vacant at the time, but construction crews were doing some remodeling work.
Both homes are a total loss with damages exceeding half a million dollars.
Firefighters were on scene until 11 p.m. extinguishing hot spots. Payson, Hellsgate, Whispering Pines, Houston Mesa and Pine-Strawberry fire departments all responded.
During the fire, Whispering Pines answered two of Payson’s service calls.
In June 2008, a Chaparral Pines home in the 2700 block of East Morning Glory Circle was lost to a fire.
Despite rumors, deMasi said firefighters easily entered Chaparral Pines Saturday through the security gates because all of the engines are outfitted with an Opticom emitter that opens security gates. The strobe is also used to switch traffic signals from red to green through an infrared signal.