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Florence family demands answers after no fire department arrives to their house fire

Posted at 7:41 PM, Apr 26, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-27 12:53:33-04

FLORENCE, AZ — We had a candle in there and I heard the pop,” says Marilesa Money.

During the early morning of April 19, the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office got a 911 call of a fire at Frank Hetzel and Marilesa Money’s home off North Hohokam Road.

“I tried to put it out and I ran out to get him,” says Money.

Deputies and the Florence Police Department arrived at the home, but no fire departments.

“I couldn’t figure out why they weren’t here,” says Money.

For 45 minutes, with help from neighbors, Hetzler and Money used garden hoses to keep the fire from spreading. It eventually swept through the entire home, taking antiques, furniture, medications, and family heirlooms along with their three cats and a bird.

“It’s so painful that people can be that cruel,” says Money. “Our lives are devastated. We lost everything.”

In February 2021, PCSO set up 911 dispatching service for the South Florence Volunteer Fire Department for that area. But last month, that service stopped.

The volunteer fire department says they were three miles away from the home and never got a 911 call.

PCSO says they didn’t contact the volunteer fire department on their emergency line because their dispatching agreement with the fire department had ended.

“They didn’t have the main number to the volunteer fire department,” says Hetzel. “Which is bull****. 911, that’s the number to all of them.”

The Pinal County Attorney’s Office and Sheriff’s Office referred to the State Fire Marshall saying, the South Florence Volunteer Fire Department is not a recognized, certified agency.

Kent Volkmer, Pinal County Attorney says, “They have not been able to show or establish that they’ve met that minimal threshold. They keep telling us it is. But when we’re checking against state databases, they’re not showing up. So there is some miscommunication issues, certainly.”

However, the volunteer department says they did give the county attorney their State Fire ID last month, calling the tragedy, ‘Avoidable’.

“Our sheriff’s department reached out to local fire departments that are licensed, that are certified. They were not able to dispatch resources,” says Volkmer.

Hetzler and Money think that’s a poor excuse from the county.

“It took over three hours for our house to burn down and then the garage burned down,” Money says with tears in her eyes. “It was plenty of time for somebody to get here.”

ABC15 asks: And no one came for three hours? Money: "No, they wouldn’t let them call.”

After getting calls on their non-emergency line, the volunteer department responded to the home still in flames. They say volunteers arrived in minutes with 3,000 gallons of water. But the fire ultimately burned itself out.

ABC15: Will you guys ever think about calling 911 again? Money: "Out here? No.”

Amid the heartbreak, the couple gives thanks to their community for helping them.

“We wouldn’t have food, underwear, clothes if it hadn’t been for them,” says Money.

Joshua Franklin, Administrative Manager for Pinal County District 1 Supervisor Kevin Cavanaugh, tells ABC15 The South Florence Volunteer Fire Department does, in fact, have a registration with the State Fire Marshall's Office.

A Board of Supervisors meeting will be held Wednesday, April 27 at 9:30 a.m. at 135 North Pinal Street in Florence, Arizona.

Franklin says, “Many of the Cactus Forest residents will be attending to address the Sheriff’s Office and the County Attorney’s Office during the public comment period. The residents are understandably very angry about the situation. Also, at tomorrow’s meeting Supervisor Cavanaugh plans to request a public hearing on this matter.”