Firefighters withdrew as the Monument Fire blazed through Miller Canyon Sunday, but a father and son remained behind to fight fires on the Beatty Guest Ranch with 5-gallon buckets of water.
Tom Beatty, 73, and his son, Tom Jr., weren't able to save their apple orchard, but they put out fires at two cabins, and when things got too toasty, they retreated into what Beatty called "a moonscape" that firefighters had blackened to help keep the approaching fire away.
Sheriff's deputies had served Beatty with an evacuation order, but he was free to disobey it as long as he remained on his own property. They also sent some retired Forest Service employees who are old friends to cajole him from his 10-acre oasis, 2.8 miles up the dirt road into Miller Canyon.
Beatty said they knew it was a fool's errand. "People know from 34 years ago how dumb I was," he said Monday.
Sheriff's officials have repeatedly asked residents to comply with evacuation orders.
Staying endangers residents and the firefighters and public officials seeking to protect them, Deputy Cochise County Sheriff Rod Rothrock said at community meetings over the weekend.
As he had in 1977 when a big fire burned the canyons of the Huachuca Mountains and came within 200 feet of his property, Beatty sent his wife packing.
Edith Beatty, 76, returned to the property Monday. She said she was worried "to a point, but I knew they were capable of taking care of themselves."
She would have stayed herself, she said, but her son and husband told her "I'd just be in the way because I can't carry 5-gallon buckets of water."
Beatty figures the destruction of most of his 3,100 apple trees represents at least a $300,000 loss, but he still has his house and the six rental units coveted by birders who flock to the canyon.
Tom Jr. said if he and his dad hadn't stayed, they would have lost at least two buildings, including a 100-year old cabin. Beatty, as he did 34 years ago, said he was certain he could survive a fire in his "little oasis of green."
The result, he said, is that he and his son "saved our insurance company a little money."
In addition, he said, "I've still got an operating guest ranch because of this."
Beatty boasted that his lodgings are "the highest in the Huachucas," and his website claims the world record for one-day viewing of 14 hummingbird species.
On Monday, Beatty ran generators to power his freezers, and a satellite link kept his telephone and Internet going.
The plastic pipe that carries water half a mile from a spring has melted, but he has a hand-dug well and can flush the toilets with buckets of water from the pond.
If he has to hold out longer than the generator fuel lasts, he said, he can move his perishable food up to one of three cabins across the creek with solar power.
Edith Beatty said the surroundings are a bit bleak with "black sticks" on the nearby ridges, but some big trees survived and the sycamores along the creek are all right. The rhubarb in the garden is "all mushed, but they have roots in the ground. They'll come back."
Contact reporter Tom Beal at 573-4158 or firstname.lastname@example.org