Neighbors Unite: A Tale of Courage and Community in the Face of Danger

In the face of danger, will your neighborhood pull together as one? I am proud to say that our little neighborhood will and did work together in a firefight for our little community.

07/26/2023 Dripping Springs, Az.

It was 6:30 p.m., and I was deep in sleep when my fifteen-year-old daughter woke me up. “Dad,” Brett said in a calm but firm voice. “What is it?” I responded, still trying to wake from my dreams. “Dad, I smell smoke, and I can’t figure out where it’s coming from,” she said. “Alright,” I said, sitting up on my bed and shaking the cobwebs out of my head. As I started getting dressed, Brett went back out the door and searched some more. A few minutes later, she opened the door and said that there was a house on fire up the hill and someone was yelling for help. She was still using a calm voice, but with a firmer sense of urgency now. Brett and her sixteen-year-old sister (Landree) headed up the hill while I was now tying my boots. By the time I was heading up the hill, my two daughters were ready to take on the task of firefighters. I made it up the hill as quickly as I could and asked one of my neighbors if the fire department had been called. I was told they had been.

In the small community that we live in, we have a volunteer fire department ten miles from us in the town of Winkelman, and it does take a little time to get them together from surrounding communities as far as thirty miles away. It is up to the citizens in the area to do what they can until the fire trucks come rolling in. I found Brett and asked her what the situation was. She informed me there was a building (a single-wide trailer house) on fire and small propane tanks exploding. I made my way the rest of the way up the hill to see the trailer house already burned halfway. The few neighbors that live in the area had already dragged hoses out of their yards and were hard at work fighting the flames. I located an unmanned hose and joined my neighbors in the fight.

A handful of people fighting massive flames with ordinary garden hoses was a site to admire. We were actually making headway, but with the flames catching nearby trees, this was a monster that would be hard to conquer. It dawned on me that I hadn’t seen Landree, and I yelled for Brett to come over to me. “Where is Landree? ” I asked with concern. “She is protecting two children in the neighbor’s house (which is three trailer houses down and across the dirt road from where we were fighting the blaze),” Brett said. I found out later that Landree saw these children, who are seven and two years of age, needed to be cared for so their mom could help with the fire.

Landree knows that, in an emergency, there are no small jobs, and everyone has to work together. She took on the responsibility for these two lives with the promise that if the fire jumped the road or got too close, she would take them down the hill to our house. She would protect them and keep them out of harm’s way.

Meanwhile, Brett had run back down the hill to grab a case of water from our place to hand out to the ones fighting the fire (this, of course, was her idea, with nobody telling her to do so). I also learned later that Brett had been one of the people to call 911 and report the fire. She returned to the scene with the case of water and started handing it out. Most of us are in our elderly years, and this was taking a lot out of us. A second trailer was on fire now, and we were being spread thin. I knew we would need longer hoses to position ourselves to fight the ever-spreading fire. I said, “Brett, go back to the house and bring up some more hoses.” She answered, “Yes, sir, and was running back down the hill once more. I thought to myself how nice it was to have a high school track star to make these runs back and forth. In no time flat, she was back with two 100-foot hoses and helping hook them up, so we had a better reach to fight this demon of the night.

House fire on July 7, 2023 in Dripping Springs, AZ
Hard at work with garden hoses photo by Brett Scaggs

Another explosion as yet another five gallon propane tank exploded! “How many propane tanks are over there, for God’s sake?” I heard a neighbor yell. This is absolutely crazy I thought. Here we are, a few neighbors (most of us, well over fifty years of age) fighting this blaze of not just one building but two now (along with the trees a blaze) and actually holding on fairly well! Working as one without any disputes and looking as though we had trained to do this! What a class act we were in that moment.  Fighting hard for what seemed like forever, a small firetruck arrived with their big hoses and trained volunteer firefighters. They went to work knocking back the flames and creating a firewall to help keep the fire from spreading to the next trailer in line. We kept our hoses going as well, but we had moved farther down to stay out of the professional’s way. We continued to work on the hot spots from the embers landing farther away as the wind blew them from the trees that were on fire. The fire truck used up its water, and as they left to go reload with the precious liquid ten miles down the road, we jumped back in and continued fighting the beast that was trying to destroy our homes.

A short time later, we had two more small fire trucks arrive and take over to extinguish the fire monster in the night. After all was said and done, there were two trailers lost in the flames. However, the two that were lost were vacant, and we, along with our firefighters, stopped the blaze from going to the third trailer house, which is the home of a sweet lady. Our community came together in an hour of need and beat the beast blazing in the night.

I would like to thank our volunteer fire department for coming and stopping what could’ve been a disaster. I would like to commend my neighbors for coming together and working as a team to help conquer this demon of destruction. The Dripping Springs community is now even stronger after our fight! We did it!

Later that night, at home, my daughters came to me and asked if they had done a good job tonight. I told them they kept their heads up and did not panic during the ordeal. They found a way to help instead of finding a way to make a bad situation worse. Landree replied, “Dad, Brett did good by calling 911 and running back and forth, getting things to help, but all I did was babysit.” I answered her with my honest opinion: “Brett was on cue and kept her head. She took care of calling 911, bringing us water, and even bringing up the hoses that we needed. She is one that I want by my side in an emergency. Now, as for you, Landree, you are an incredible asset in the face of danger, taking care of two children and keeping them safe. You took responsibility for not just one soul but two. I am so proud of you both!”

Two teenage sisters., one with her arm around the other posing for the picture.
Brett Scaggs is on the left Landree Scaggs is on the right. photo by Nicole Scaggs

My girls showed me tonight that they have grown past their years in maturity, and I am one proud dad! One last thing before I go. Many prayers went up to Heaven from many of us during this fight. God heard our prayers and answered.