CAVE CREEK, Ariz. (3TV/CBS 5) – Some people forced to evacuate their homes and businesses because of the Ocotillo Fire in Cave Creek are returning to destruction and heartbreak. The fire destroyed 20 buildings, eight of them homes. The fire also tore through an iconic business, Johnny Ringo’s Carefree Adventures.

Ringo walked Arizona’s Family reporter Kylee Cruz through what’s left of his livelihood, showing her the burnt-out shells of the Jeeps and Broncos he used to give tours. He had been in business for nearly three decades.

Johnny Ringo's Carefree Adventures

“I probably took thousands of people a year out,” he said. “This is really hard.”

“You know, your whole life is in here,” he said, gesturing to the line of vehicles. “Each one of these is assigned to my people. They’re heartbroken also.” In addition to the tour vehicles, Ringo also lost a classic ’66 Volkswagen Riviera that was all original. “I don’t think anything can be salvaged from any of my vehicles,” he said.

“We didn’t have time to do anything,” Ringo said, explaining that he tried to move one of the Broncos to a safe location. “By that time, the fire was in my driveway.”

Carefree Adventures

This burned tree right outside Ringo's porch shows how close the fire came to his home.

While Ringo did lose his tour vehicles, he did not lose his house. He says he has a neighbor to thank for that. Ringo said his neighbor's crew used water trucks to surround his property and spray it down as the flames approached. “They stayed here and they protected my house," he said, pointing to a scorched tree in front of his porch.

Ringo was emotional about the loss of his business. "This is my dream," he said. But he's also grateful for the support he's getting and had nothing but praise for his community.

"I think with the help of my friends, I’ll be back … I’m gonna survive," he said. "This community is one of the best communities to live [in]. We all pulled together. We saved all the livestock. Everybody knew what to do and where to go. We got it done. I’m so proud of Cave Creek ….”

► "I'll be back."

As of Tuesday afternoon, the human-caused Ocotillo Fire was 100% contained at a little less than 1,000 acres. That happened a bit sooner than anticipated so all of the remaining evacuation orders have been lifted. Fire officials were asking residents to be careful when returning home because "there are still engines patrolling throughout the burn area monitoring for hot spots."

The fire started Saturday afternoon. While fire officials believe it was human-caused, they have not determined the source. It remains under investigation.


Copyright 2020 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.


Recommended for you