Many skeptical about blaze at site that was to be group home

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Neighbors shocked at blaze
azfamily.com

UPDATE: Tuesday, Jan. 27

MESA - There is new information about a large house fire in Mesa first reported by 3TV on Monday night.

The house was well known in the neighborhood even before the big blaze. No one expected this and now everyone is curious how it happened. As firefighters investigate, neighbors are speculating.

Dana Harper, a neighbor, says, "It's unfortunate that happened. It's a beautiful house. Jeannie Flynn, another neighbor admits, "I was shocked, I really was rather surprised."

Neighbors in the upscale Mesa community are reacting to the devastating house fire.

Flynn adds, "We're all pretty shocked. They are shocked because the house, which was in the midst of a remodel, was just days away from becoming a state-licensed therapeutic group home for adult men.

Flynn says, "If we wanted to live near a prison or halfway house it'd be a different story."

Then on Monday night massive flames tore through the house. Melanie Opheim, with the U-turn Foundation, says "Obviously it was devastating. We were looking forward to having some clients move in." Opheim says, "We've put up more security in the house. We have cameras, it's just become a little bit different."

Opheim already owns and operates one juvenile group home in Mesa. She says she expected opposition here but now, looking at the rubble, she wonders, "There was a lot of people critical of us. Obviously it's crossing the investigators' mind but we're not the experts on what or how this fire started."

Still some people are suspicious. Flynn admits, "I think everyone is." Harper adds, "This is a neighborhood with families and people. There's no vigilantes."

There is, however, a burnt out home and renewed hope for neighbors opposed to the group home.

Flynn says, "We hope they do rebuild, maybe they'll reconsider."< /p>

Nevertheless, with license and registration in hand the U-turn Foundation plans to stay put and they say they plan to help another ten men in Mesa.

Opheim explains, "At this point that is our plan."

Again, this fire is under investigation and so far firefighters have not released a cause. In the meantime the U-turn Foundation is working to figure out how best to move forward from this.

ORIGINAL REPORT:

MESA -- Mesa and Gilbert fire crews battled a huge house fire near the intersection of Baseline and Val Vista.

According to the Mesa Fire Department, a neighbor called the house fire in around 8:15pm Monday night.

When fire crews arrived on the scene the roof had partially collapsed.

Foam and water were used to battle the blaze in the 3,000 square-foot home.

Crews evacuated houses to the south as a precaution.

According to authorities, the house had been vacant for the past few months as it was being remodeled.