A brush fire burned within 20 feet of a Verde Village home shortly before 2 p.m. Thursday, June 24.
Verde Valley Fire District responded to the call from 18-year-old Marcus Drazick at his home in the 4000 block of Commanche Drive.
Drazick saw the smoke, called 9-1-1 and raced to the back yard to grab a hose. As flames approached, Drazick started watering down an area behind his home where the fire was feeding on a tangle of thick vegetation and broken branches inside a grove of cottonwood trees.
VVFD was on the scene within five minutes of the call, according to 14-year-old Daniel Davis, who was swimming in the nearby Verde River when the fire began.
“We were swimming and saw six kids near the place where the fire started. They were smoking,” Davis said. “I don’t know what they were smoking.”
Shortly after the six left the area, Davis and his friend, Sam Ofetelo, 15, said they saw smoke they believed was coming from a small campfire.
“Five minutes later, it was a lot of smoke,” Davis said.
“We were scared,” Ofetelo said. “We ran right by the flames.”
At least one engine, a water tender and a utility vehicle were at the scene to douse the flames, leaving an acre of charred ground and black, smoldering tree trunks. No structures were damaged.
The fire was out within 30 minutes, but VVFD left firefighters at the scene to take care of hot spots and to make sure the fire did not flare up again.
“I’m very upset that these kids have no respect and don’t obey the signs,” homeowner Danielle Drazick said. “We don’t mind sharing the nature we have back here with people, but when they start fires and leave garbage that we have to pick up we get pretty unhappy about it.”
“This fire came pretty close to our house,” Drazick said. “Too close for comfort.”
VVFD Fire Chief Jerry Doerksen, who was also at the scene, said the wildfire was evidence of how important it is to maintain defensible space around a house.
“If they’d gotten in there with a weed eater and knocked all those weeds down, they probably would have just had little itty bitty flames to deal with,” Doerksen said.
Cottonwood Utilities Operation Manager Michael McCarbery, who was also at the scene, said a fire hydrant installed in 2009 was used to help battle the fire. It was the first time the unit was used, McCarbery said.
“I’m just here to make sure the firefighters and the residents get the water they need,” McCarbery said. “Everything went smoothly.”