Tree farm fire near Maricopa caused by lightning contained, 319 acres burned

Officials say lightning caused a fire at the tree farm near Ralston Road.
Published: Aug. 1, 2023 at 10:36 PM MST
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PINAL COUNTY, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) — The Thunderbird Fire District is keeping an eye on hot spots from a tree farm fire near Maricopa that’s burned 319 acres since it started on Sunday night. The Chief, Allen Allcott, said lightning is the cause. The fire has been contained, but crews could remain on the scene for up to 10 days monitoring hot spots.

Skylar Shelquist, who lives in the unincorporated area in Pinal County, said she heard the lightning nearby. She doesn’t live too far from the farm. ”We heard it, and we’d seen it on our lightning radar app where it had hit a tree farm. And I watched lightning hit the farm all night,” she said.

Shelquist shared pictures of the lightning striking the farm with Arizona’s Family. She said her fiancé, a volunteer firefighter with the Thunderbird Fire District, rushed to help. “Thirty-six hours, he was out and about between fighting fires and going to his day job because all of our volunteers are unpaid. It’s just a volunteer crew,” she said.

During the interview, Shelquist’s fiancé noticed black smoke coming from the farm and left to check it out. It stopped soon after he arrived.

Fire Chief Allen Allcott said his crew is made up of 17 volunteers. Those who are not on vacation have been battling the flames with help from other nearby departments. He explained that the Thunderbirds are the only fire department for the unincorporated area. “The first night, we thought we had made pretty good success, but the weather decides to come in. Winds changed, picking up some new fuel and it flared up again real heavy yesterday and today,” he said.

He said the farm caught fire around this time last year and gave crews an idea of how to tackle the flames this time. However, last year’s cause is still unknown.

Chief Allcott said the property had not been maintained for about eight to 10 years, leaving behind a lot of dry brush. He said a company purchased the land and has been working with the department to thin out the farm with prescribed burns to prevent fuel for potential wildfires. However, it could be two more years before the project is complete. Chief Allcott said the company plans to turn the tree farm into a family-friendly destination where people can enjoy nature.

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