County News

High winds fanned the flames of a fire that burned a Village of Oak Creek home, leaving 11 members of a family homeless.

Shortly after 3 p.m. on Saturday, April 23, crews from the Sedona Fire District, Verde Valley Fire District, Camp Verde and the U.S. Forest Service responded to a brush fire behind Rimrock Ride Road, off Jack’s Canyon Road. However, that fire quickly spread to a nearby home, which crews battled for more than two hours. There were no reports of injuries.

Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Dwight D’Evelyn said after receiving descriptions from neighbors, four juveniles were detained and released to their parents pending a reckless burning criminal complaint.

Deputies were told by witnesses that the fire started in a wash area below the street and eventually spread, he said. The witnesses also indicated several children were playing in the wash area where the fire originated and suspected their involvement.

Deputies and detectives from the Criminal Investigations Bureau have concluded that three boys, ages 8, 11 and 12, along with a 13-year-old girl, found a lighter and were igniting cotton from the cottonwood trees in the wash area near East Cortez Drive.

“They also lit some piled sticks and as the wind picked up, nearby grasses caught fire which then spread to trees on the hillside,” D’Evelyn said. “At this point, it appears embers from one of the trees landed on the roof of a Rimrock Ride Road home. This particular home had a flat roof containing a lot of plant and leaf debris which eventually ignited the structure itself. Although the fire was contained to this home, the home itself was nearly a total loss. There was some damage to adjacent property due to residual heat from the fire.”

Cathy Stanley, whose immediate and extended family members had been renting the house for the last five months, said she was not home at the time of the fire but her adult niece and four young children were.

“She was able to get the kids and dog out safely,” she said, with tears in her eyes as she watched firefighters battle the fire. “I’m just glad they are out and safe. Everything else inside is just stuff.”

She said her niece called to let her know there was a fire in the ditch behind the house. But her tone quickly changed during a subsequent call.

“The call turned frantic as she said the house was on fire,” she said.

Scott Wilcox owns four rental homes on the street, including the one that burned, which he had built in 1997.

“It looks like a pretty big loss,” he said. “And it looks as though all of their [tenants’] stuff is completely ruined. It’s sad. I’m not sure what else to say.”

SFD Fire Marshal Gary Johnson said while the district stresses defensible space around a home to help prevent fire, it’s also important to keeps roofs clear of debris.

“It was reported that there was a significant amount of debris on the roof of the house that burned,” he said. “Most was just normal vegetation that had fallen from nearby trees. That’s why it’s important to keep your house lean, green and clean.”

The house fire left the 11 members of that family homeless and with little more than the clothes on their backs. The Red Cross has stepped in to help as has the Sedona Verde Valley Firefighter Charities, which provided the family with $1,000 in gift cards for immediate relief. The organization will also be collecting donated items, which can be dropped off at any SFD fire station. Donations can also be made to the program at under “emergency relief program.” In addition, GoFundMe accounts have been set up by the families.


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