Arson cases put small Arizona community on edge

A string of fires in rural Arizona, a fire chief expecting arson, and a community on edge. That’s the reality for those who live in Vernon, a small town about 19 miles (about 30.57 kilometers) east of Show Low.

Normally, the community only has 12 fires a year, but since late December, there have been 10 fires, eight of those in 2024. With no leads and no suspects, officials are urging the community to remain vigilant.

"It’s a place where I go for my Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, to get away from the hustle and bustle down here," said Andrew Simcox.

Andrew and Christina Simcox had a property in the area. It was in the family for 25 years, and was a peaceful sanctuary for Andrew, who is a disabled veteran, to escape to.

Now, only memories remain.

"We would sit out there and sit out there on the front porch, and have coffee and BBQ and stuff like that," said Andrew. "But now that’s all gone. I mean, it’s burnt all the way down past the footers."

The Simcoxs' property was victim to yet another fire in the Vernon area. Assistant Fire Chief Nick Perrone said of the handful of fires this year, he’s investigating at least three incidents of purported arson. The cases are all clustered within a half mile of each other, and the properties were all unoccupied at the time.

"Our unusual string of fires we’ve been having roughly begun on Dec. 2,h and has continued up until [Feb. 1] so far," said Assistant Fire Chief Perrone.

On the morning of Feb. 2, another structure fire happened.

"It’s exhausting," said Sarah Peterson. "That’s the best word to use. It’s exhausting."

"People don’t even want to leave their houses because they are afraid that when they do, it’s going to burn down, that when they come back from town, it’s going to be burned down," said Andrew.

There have been no physical injuries related to the fires. Meanwhile, fire officials want to stress if anyone in the community sees something odd or unusual, they should get video of it, if possible, and send it immediately to law enforcement.