QUEEN CREEK, Ariz. (KSAZ) - A part of valley history was destroyed by an early morning fire on the grounds of Schnepf Farms. Thousands of families gather there every holiday season, making memories.
Before the sun rose on Friday, Mark Schnepf already called it a really hard day. Sometime before 4:00 a.m., his childhood home near Queen Creek and Riggs Road had burned.
"My parents built this house in the 1950s, so I grew up here. We raised kids here in the early part of their years," he said.
The house, the memories, the heirlooms and the chapel that was built 10 years ago -- all a loss.
"As soon as the crews left the fire station, they saw a very large column of smoke," said Deputy Chief Vance Gray of the Queen Creek Fire Department.
"With fire already being through the roof.. it's an old structure.. it was compromised to the point we could not send crews inside," explained Gray.
Firefighters were able to save the west end of the building and as they finished mopping up, the real clean-up started. Mark's wife Carrie shifted through what was her office, collecting and saving as much as possible.
"We have weddings coming up. We are only going to try to build as fast as we can to accommodate those people because we want to make sure that this is a lasting legacy for he people of he community.. that they are able to enjoy and use," said Mark.
The Maricopa County Sheriff's Office is investigating the fire. The cause remains unknown. Officials have determined it was not arson, but an accidental fire.
Carrie Schnepf of Schnepf Farms tweeted at about 5 a.m. about the farmhouse fire.
Today is the worst morning of my life!!! 25 years of my life's blood is in this building. pic.twitter.com/mW8aPpK54c— Carrie Schnepf (@Schnepf_Farms) December 11, 2015