It was about 12:30 Sunday afternoon and Tyrone Davis was asleep in one of the back bedrooms of his small stone and wood house in the Winona area. His daughter and her 6-week-old son were sleeping on a pullout couch in the living room.
Suddenly, Davis awoke to the windows shattering as flames blasted into his house. Before he could get up, fire jumped onto the bed beside him, burning his clothes.
It was like "a monster," he said.
He yelled to his daughter that the house was on fire and ran out, leaving his keys, wallet, phone and the rest of his belongings behind.
“The fire was on us before we knew what was happening,” Davis said. “We barely came out with our lives.”
Father, daughter and grandson jumped into their car, backed up the driveway and watched as fire churned through their home. Within 10 to 15 minutes, the entire structure was engulfed in flames, Davis said. It also torched the family’s three trucks, two motorcycles, ATV, trailer, camper, shed and barn.
Davis and his longtime partner had lived in the home for nearly 30 years.
The cause of Sunday’s wildfire, which burned a total of 85 acres in the Winona area including Davis's property, was traced back to a home about a half-mile west of Davis, on Copley Road. There, Sheriff’s Office reports say resident Steve A. Carter, 54, was burning yard debris when the fire got away from him, carried by winds that gusted up to 37 mph.
Though Carter had a permit to burn, Summit Fire Department had issued a no-burn notice that day due to high winds, said Duane Deck, interim battalion chief with the department.
Carter was arrested later Sunday afternoon on charges of reckless burning.
OUT OF CONTROL
The first calls of a wildfire came in around 12:15 p.m., according to the Coconino County Sheriff’s Office.
From there, the flames raced eastward through grass and shrubs that were already parched after the sixth driest fall and winter on record. Among the first structures they encountered were Davis’s trailer and then his house.
Davis said the fire sounded like wind at first and by the time he woke up, the flames were surrounding most of the house. Nicole Davis, Tyrone’s daughter, said she ran back into the house to get car keys after putting her baby in the car and could barely see through the thick black smoke. She has burns on her back and arms and said even her son’s clothes have burn holes in them.
Her father, too, has burn scars on his face and blisters on his hands from the hot metal chain he had to grab to unleash his dog as the fire approached.
The three made it to the car with their two dogs, but a cat that followed Tyrone everywhere is still missing, he said.
Father and daughter came back to the home Monday, along with Julia Jones, Tyrone’s significant other and Nicole’s mother. It was the first time Jones had seen the house since it burned.
“It’s devastating,” she said. “It’s unbelievable this could happen to me or anyone.”
The family had paid off the home but didn’t have any insurance on it, Jones said.
The brick chimney and a couple of low stone walls were the only parts of the home still standing on Monday. Jones looked over the burned remains of furniture and appliances, the blackened frames of cars and piles of their belongings that had been turned to ash.
She was still in shock, she said.
NEIGHBORS HELPING NEIGHBORS
In all, 75 homes were evacuated Sunday due to the Copley Fire and at least one other mobile home was completely burned, though it was unoccupied, officials and neighbors said.
As the fire burned Sunday afternoon, neighbors in the area east of Leupp Road and north of Townsend-Winona Road loaded up pets and livestock, used hoses to water down the edges of their properties and dug fire lines with shovels and tractors.
Michael Jura, who lives just next door to the house where the fire began, said he had about a dozen neighbors helping him dig fire line and hose down his property.
"We had 20-foot flames 100 feet across coming right at us,"Jura said. “We all have burns and cuts from fighting the fire. We were face to face with it.”
At one point, Jura said he and a few others were pulling up weeds and throwing them back into the fire as his daughter was dousing them with the garden hose. When all was said and done, the fire stopped 25 feet from his home, he said.
PERMIT TO BURN?
Summit Fire Department requires permits for any residential controlled burning in its area and requires residents to call the department on the day they plan to burn and provide their personal information. Burning regulations are set by the state’s department of environmental quality, said Chris Fennell, battalion chief at the department.
If Carter would have called in to the district on Sunday before burning yard debris, he would have been directed to a message stating burning was prohibited that day, Fennell said.
On Monday crews worked to put out hotspots that still remained in the burn footprint and ensure the fire was completely put out around its edges, Deck said. They will continue what are called mopup operations Tuesday as well, he said.
As her family looks to rebuild, Nicole Davis has set up a Go Fund Me page to raise money for the cause.
At 71 years old, Tyrone Davis said he had been looking forward to taking it easy.
“I thought I got to a point in my life where I could kinda take a deep breath,” he said. “I said, ‘Yeah, I think I made it, I think I’m good.’”
Now, faced with the prospect of remaking a home, he said he doesn’t have any idea where to start.