Just off the Chaparral Pines hole three green, past a checkered flag waving in the warm afternoon sun Sunday, black charred wood hissed and steamed.
Firefighters continued to spray the beast that just wouldn’t die. Like trick birthday candles, once one section was out, another would light up nearby.
The fire had been going since at least 3 a.m. Sunday in the two-story wood and stone luxury vacation home set among the rolling hills of the gated community.
As some firefighters sprayed the heated remains, others worked below a back deck, churning through twisted metal and debris, trying to pinpoint a cause.
One held up a piece of rubble and turned it around to examine every side. He tossed it to the ground, a piece of lighting conduit.
Investigators believe the fire started near a Jacuzzi on the upper back porch, likely from an improperly disposed of cigarette left by one of eight people staying at the home.
The homeowner’s grandson had reportedly come up from the Valley with seven friends.
In the wee hours, the home’s smoke alarm went off and all eight exited safely.
The fire had started some time before on the outside and made its way into the home, said a Payson fire official.
The home had sprinklers, but they did little to stop the flames. Battalion Chief Tom Fife said fire sprinklers aren’t designed to put a fire out, but to give the people inside time to escape. In this case, everyone got out safely from the home, in the 2700 block of East Wild Rose Circle.
When firefighters arrived, the home was already fully engulfed. They managed to stop the flames from spreading to an attached garage and thus saved three vehicles and a golf cart.
The homeowner, who was not home at the time, later told Fife he had bought the home three years ago and was fixing it up. Work had started on an addition to the lower level. The man appeared visibly shook up when he saw the home for the first time Sunday.
One firefighter was injured fighting the fire. He twisted his ankle, but did not require medical attention, Fife said.
Several surrounding fire departments assisted Payson, including Hellsgate, Houston Mesa and Whispering Pines.