MARICOPA, AZ — An organization that serves so many families in the city of Maricopa is now left cleaning up after a massive fire.
The Maricopa Food Pantry tells ABC15 about 40,000 pounds of canned food, meat and produce were lost in the fire. Most of it could be seen in burned piles on the ground.
The cause of the fire is still under investigation.
"By the time I got here, it had spread to trailer 3 and trailer 2," says Mike Connelly, president of Maricopa Food Pantry.
Winds fueled the flames at the drive-up food pantry. A total of six semi-trailers and a storage container, filled with food donations, all gone.
The fire sparked around noon Monday and volunteer fire departments responded to fight the flames, along with volunteers within the community.
"Out here we could call the public, we know people who have back hoes, we know people who have extra water trucks, everybody will come out," says Chief Allen Allcott, Thunderbird Fire District.
Maricopa Food Pantry has been serving the community for 17 years now. Mike Connelly used to rely on the service and is now the current president.
"We bring all the food out and we have people packing boxes here, then we run cars in two lanes," says Connelly.
They help nearly 1,200 families a week.
"They really relied on this food bank, and I don't know where they are going to be without it. Here in this part of Pinal County, there isn't really much. We're a food desert," says Connelly.
It was also a close-call for the homeowner next door.
"This is what everybody thought was ammunition going off," says Phil Pettes, the homeowner.
The flames forced him to evacuate.
"The house didn't get damaged at all. I lost some cars out back and some other stuff but, it's all replaceable," says Pettes.
Organizers with Maricopa Pantry told ABC15 they plan on replacing the trailers with a warehouse that can be used as a soup kitchen for those in need.
"I know we can't replace what we lost but we're not done," said Jim Shoaf, the group's CEO. "We're going to rebuild. We're going to rebuild bigger and better than what we were."
Last year, the pantry handed out more than 3 million pounds of food.
Officials with St. Mary's Food Bank said they plan on helping by replacing the food. Other churches have also volunteered to help.
"It really means a lot," said Shoaf.
In the meantime, the food pantry says it plans to continue helping people on a smaller scale and are accepting donations.