Once he was allowed to return home Wednesday evening, Encino Fire evacuee Eric Grissell found his house on Terry Lane in Sonoita unburnt. His fences, garden, shed and water tank, however, were destroyed.
Molly Anderson’s home on Apache Trail was also still standing. But her porch was in ruins, the front doors were burned, the windows were blown out and part of the roof was damaged.
When Daniel Rodriguez arrived at the home he bought on Toledo Road just three weeks ago, it was burnt to the ground.
Four more homeowners returned to residences incinerated by the Encino Fire after the evacuation order was lifted at 5 p.m. Wednesday. Others came home to smoke-filled houses too damaged to live in, as well as destroyed outbuildings, vehicles, gardens and other infrastructure.
As of Thursday morning, the fire was 60-percent contained and its perimeter was secured, said Joseph DeWolf, chief of the Sonoita-Elgin Fire District.
“We still have a lot of heat in the interior of that fire,” he added.
The lighting-caused fire began Tuesday evening, spreading to an estimated 1,300 acres, threatening 122 homes and forcing more than 100 families to evacuate from residential areas south of the junction of State Routes 82 and 83.
“There was a (storm) system over us,” DeWolf said, adding: “We had multiple strikes around the community but the one that the residents saw was right up at the Boyd Lane area.”
The fire knocked out 25-30 electric poles, causing widespread power outages in the area. Speaking Thursday morning, DeWolf said power had been returned to 85 percent of the affected homes and he expected the remainder to be connected to the grid later that afternoon.
Grissell had power at his Terry Lane home on Thursday morning, but no water after the fire destroyed his water tank. Still, he said he would tough it out and remain at home.
A retired insect researcher, Grissell said he was most upset about losing his native plant garden, which attracts bees, butterflies and hummingbirds.
“I’ve spent 10 years building this garden actually from nothing, and now I’m back to nothing,” he said.
“The worst part almost is the smell, everything smells like burning here,” he added.
Anderson said she would look for a place to stay while her home undergoes repairs.
“I am amazed that my house is in the shape it’s in because we thought when we left and saw the flames approaching it that it was going to be completely gone,” she said.
When Beverly Parker drove back to her house on Toledo Road, she said, she was relieved to be greeted by her cat Leo, whom she couldn’t find when she evacuated.
“He was right there, sitting there waiting for us. ‘What was the big deal’, he said. He had ash on his nose,” Parker said.
While her home and cat were unharmed, her guest house, which is attached to her main house with wooden beams, was heavily damaged.
“Well, I don’t know how else to say it, it’s a ruin,” Parker said, adding that she can’t sleep in the main house because of the smoke.
Across the street, Rodriguez inspected the charred remains of his recently purchased home on Thursday.
After seeing thick, black smoke nearby on Tuesday evening, Rodriguez said, he fled with his wife and two children. He returned at 9:30 p.m to his still-standing home to collect his kids’ toys.
But some time later that night, the wind shifted and the fire burned his house to the ground, leaving only part of the chimney and walls standing.
Rodriguez’s real estate agent contacted him on Wednesday to let him know what happened, and he returned Thursday afternoon to see the damage for himself.
“We’re really lucky,” he said, noting that the family hadn’t sold their Tucson home yet and they didn’t lose many items since they weren’t completely moved in.
Rodriguez said he still plans to move to Sonoita, either by rebuilding his house or buying a home elsewhere. “We really like it here,” he said, noting he enjoys seeing deer outside his home at 6:15 a.m. every day, “like clockwork.”