Rescuers Save Man From Fire

Fire crews arrive barely in time to save man in Star Valley, while arson suspected in Payson fire

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Forest fires aren’t the only things heating up Rim Country. The Hellsgate and Payson Fire departments each responded to house fires this week, one suspicious and one that nearly melted a man’s feet off.

In the Star Valley fire, crews arrived just in time to save a man trapped in his house by the flames caused by his grill. In Payson, no one was injured in the fire in a rental house just off South McLane Road, but investigators suspect arson.

Star Valley fire

In Star Valley on Saturday afternoon, a man suffered severe burns to his feet trying to escape his rental home after a fire in a small charcoal grill spread, blocking the home’s only exit with towering flames.

Twice the man’s landlord had reportedly warned him not to grill due to strict fire restrictions that ban open flames.

The U.S. Forest Service and Gila County both imposed fire restrictions several weeks ago after multiple fires erupted in the forest in the face of tinderbox conditions.

Officials say a man in his mid 50s reportedly started a fire in a charcoal grill to cook dinner about 4 p.m. Saturday when the flames quickly got away from him.

The man, who had lived in the rental in the 600 block of Valley Road for less than two months, went inside after he started the coals, said Hellsgate Fire Chief Gary Hatch.

The grill fire quickly started a porch fire, engulfing the front of the home in flames before the man could escape.

A motorist reported the fire, and firefighters arrived within three minutes, finding the front of the home in flames and both the front door and window knocked out.

Crews had no idea anyone remained inside the home.

Acting captain Bob Eavenson reportedly called into the home, but got no answer.

Crews hauled a hose up a hill to the home and had the fire snuffed within minutes.

When Eavenson went into the home to knock the ceiling down, he found the man barricaded behind a mattress.

The man had reportedly tried to run out of the home, but when flames blocked his path, he turned over his mattress and used it like a shield.

Any more time in the home and the man would have likely died, Hatch said.

“Two minutes more and we wouldn’t have saved him,” he said. “It was that close.”

The man had second- and third-degree burns to his feet, and fluids in his lungs due to smoke inhalation. The man was flown to a Valley hospital in critical condition, Hatch said.

Payson fire

The cause of the fire in the Payson home remains much less clear. That fire started early Wednesday morning.

About 1 a.m., a motorist reported flames coming from a home in the 600 block of South Highland Street.

Firefighters saw flames inside the 500-square-foot rental home. Luckily, no one was inside.

The fire burned in several different rooms of the home, mostly burning through the contents. Within 20 minutes, a dozen firefighters had the blaze out, said Payson Battalion Chief Tom Fife.

The fire appears to have started in a bedroom, but investigators are treating the incident as suspicious. Fife said the fire’s “burn pattern” was unusual, so investigators suspect arson.

Most of the damage was to the home’s contents, leaving the structure mostly intact, Fife said.

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