When reports of a fire at 89 and Rosser Street came in, Prescott Fire Department personnel had no idea how difficult the blaze would be to extinguish.
The fire was centered in the Prescott Creeks office at 1801 N. AZ State Route 89. It was originally built as a log home, but had been converted to an office. Law enforcement phoned Michael Byrd, Executive Director of the non-profit organization, and told him there was a fire.
Upon arrival, firefighters found that the smoke was thick and dense. And to make matters worse, the closest fire hydrant was on the other side of Hwy 89. Prescott Police and Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) closed 89 in both directions so the firefighters could attach their hose to the hydrant. Hwy 89 was closed for approximately 2 hours as firefighters battled the blaze.
Thousands of gallons of water were used during the firefight. And it was a fight. Every time the firefighters thought they had it under control, it would blaze up again.
Firefighters eventually had to resort to peeling off the metal roof in their attempts to find the source of the fire and get it completely extinguished.
Several crews of firefighters worked on the fire throughout the day.
Later, Byrd spoke with Prescott eNews about the fire, and said he was thankful that nobody was injured during the incident. He also appreciated the fact that firefighters were able to keep the fire contained, and that it did not spread to Watson Woods. “Nobody was inside the building. The rest is just stuff,” Byrd said, noting that most of it could be replaced. Unfortunately, most of the organization’s data and research was in the building. Byrd was still waiting to see how much, if anything, was salvageable.
“It’s going to take a while to get sorted out,” Byrd said. “We’ve got our fingers crossed. But, we’re here for the long haul."
Footage of the burning fire in the video below was provided by Fire Marshal Don Devendorf, who explained the challenges faced by the firefighters:
Late this afternoon, Devendorf sent out the following press release:
On Sunday December 10, 2017, at approximately 6:40 AM, the Prescott Regional Communications Center received multiple 911 calls reporting a house on fire at the intersection of Highway 89 and Rosser Street in Prescott. 3 Engine Companies, a Truck Company, a Battalion Chief, Prescott PD, an ambulance, and other support personnel were dispatched. Units responding to the fire could see the smoke column from long distances.
The first arriving unit found a log constructed building with heavy smoke and flames coming from the front of the structure. The building houses a business and other residents of the area were able to tell responders that the building was vacant.
Crews began an exterior fire attack to allow them to enter the structure to do a search and fully extinguish the fire. Once fire crews got part of the way into the building, heavy fire conditions were encountered, so it was decided to back out and apply water through window and door openings. The fire proved difficult to extinguish as it alternated between heavy smoke conditions and large flames shooting out of all sides of the building. The fire was brought under control in a couple of hours because there were many hidden compartment fires that kept popping up. Crews were unable to enter the structure due to the fact that the roof structure had burned through and there was no safe way to enter the structure. Efforts to fully extinguish the fire were hampered by fire and smoke continuing to pop up in different places that water would not reach. Multiple attempt were made to extinguish the hidden fires by peeling back the metal roof, then tearing up the shingles below it, and then cutting the wooden roof members that were burning below but not accessible to due there being two roof structures.
After 3 hours and changing out and responding multiple new crews in an attempt to find ways to extinguish the fire, a decision was make to use heavy equipment to remove the roof from the building. What was found was that there were two roofs, with about a 2 inch space between them that was filled with sawdust, that had apparently been used as insulation. Once the concealed space was opened and the sawdust was accessible, crews were able to extinguish the fire. Crews were on the scene for nine hours extinguishing and overhauling this fire.
There were no injuries to firefighters or civilians. Damage was estimated at $300,000 to the building and contents. The fact that this building was constructed in 1957, and had been remodeled and added on to, with modifications to all building systems, made fighting this fire difficult. The current cause of this fire is undetermined since investigators were not able to enter the structure under the collapsing room structure.
One thing learned during the investigation was that the business was in the habit of leaving space heaters on after employees leave the business at night and on weekends. Space heaters are meant to heat spaces that people are in. Space heaters should not be left on when a building is not occupied. The heater may have played no part in the starting of this fire, this is simply a safety reminder to not leave portable space heaters on and unattended.