UPDATE: Fire destroys historic farmhouse at Schnepf Farms in Queen Creek

A historic farmhouse at Schnepf Farms in Queen Creek was destroyed by a fire early Dec. 11. Despite the loss, the agricultural landmark will be open for business today, owners Carrie and Mark Schnepf said.

Queen Creek Fire responded to the farm about 3:45 after getting a call of an unknown fire, according to Queen Creek Deputy Fire Chief Vance Gray.

“When they turned down the driveway here and determined it was actually a structure fire, instead of a debris fire or vegetation fire, we called in some additional resources from our neighboring communities.” Chief Gray said. Those neighboring communities were, firefighters from Gilbert, Mesa and Superstition fire departments “We essentially stopped the fire, where we found it.”

The fire had burned through the roof when the first crew arrived on the scene, according to Chief Gray, so they fought the fire from the exterior of the building.

Chief Grey said that the 2,500 square foot building would be a total loss, due to the smoke and water damage. As of right now, there is no word of how much the damage cost. The cause of the fire is still unknown.

“MCSO just completed their investigation and did say that they do not have a determined cause but know it is not suspicious,” Chief Gray said. “So it was not arson.”

Mrs. Schnepf said the farmhouse where weddings and events are held caught fire. The building also houses her office.

“Today is the worst morning of my life. Twenty-five years of my life’s blood is in this building,” she said in a tweet around 4:30 a.m.

The Schnepfs were given access to the building about 8:30 a.m.

“I am just going to see what I can salvage,” Mrs. Schnepf said. “I had files, its 25 years of files, I had my kids important documents, their birth certificates, papers they gave me.”

The Schnepfs pulled out piles of papers and documents that they will have to spend time going through.

“What I am finding now is pictures and stuff that is burned around the edges,” Mrs. Schnepf said. “I found one of my son’s files with his birth certificate burned around the edge.”

Mr. Schnepf said they believe the fire started in Mrs. Schnepf’s office, but the cause is unknown at this time.

“My office is gutted,” Mrs. Schnepf said. “There is another little room that is kind of gutted but once you go in the house, a lot of smoke damage.”

Mr. Schnepf said his parents built the farmhouse in the 1950s. He grew up in it and he and Mrs. Schnepf raised their kids there. In 1995, the farm started a transition from a large commercial farm to entertainment farming or, agritourism. Mrs. Schnepf’s office held everything that involved any festivals coming to the farm.

The farm was founded by Ray and Thora Schnepf, Mr. Schnepf’s parents in 1941. The house that burned was built by them in the ‘50s and Mr. Schnepf was raised in the home.

“Then we raised our four children in this house,” Mrs. Schnepf said. “Our oldest is 22 and our youngest is 16.”

The Schnepfs moved off the property seven or eight years ago, about five miles away.

“25 years of my life has just disappeared,” Mrs. Schnepf said. “It was a hard thing to swallow.”

They plan to rebuild the building as quickly as possible.

“The last fire I experienced was in Greer when the families 3 generational cabin burned down,” Mrs. Schnepf said. “We have brides depending on it, and that would be a bummer.”

Mrs. Schnepf said that the plan for the farm is to go through the investigation, and insurance claims.

“Then were going pick up our boot straps and go forward, I mean you have to just go forward,” she said. “Too many people are depending on it.”

Mrs. Schnepf said she appreciated all the messages that have been left on their social media.

“We know the farm is a big part of the community, and we hope to be able to create some wonderful memories,” Mrs. Schnepf said. “We will do what we can do and keep going.”

Mrs. Schnepf posted this on the Schnepf Farm Facebook page:

“Good morning! I woke up to a phone call that my office was on fire. This is what I saw. The farmhouse and my office engulfed. The farmhouse was built by Ray and Thora Schnepf in the ‘50s. Mark was raised there and so were our kids.

“First thoughts are what are we going to do? Well, 25 years of records, photos, computers, budgets, supplies ….basically everything that had to do with entertainment on the farm is gone. Nothing is salvageable. The portion of the farmhouse where the bridal suite is has considerable smoke damage.

“What can you do? Regroup, rebuild and move on. For me, I am going to take a day to process. I won’t be baking this morning. I am sitting in the orchard listening to news copters overhead and seeing flashing lights from fire trucks news live trucks and trying to grasp what is happening. The farm will be open. The country store, breakfast, train rides, U-pick garden and petting zoo will all be open today.

“Breakfast with Santa is still happening tomorrow. However, we have no idea who is coming so please come and be patient as we check you in. We look forward to seeing you.

“We will rebuild the farmhouse. We have brides who love our farm and have chosen it as the location to be married.

“Things will get better. Thank you for the kind thoughts.”

In a separate post, Mrs. Schnepf said no one was injured. She also acknowledged the first responders who helped put out the fire. They were Queen Creek Fire & Medical, Gilbert Fire and Rescue, Mesa Fire and Medical Department and Superstition Fire & Medical District.

The majority of the original structure of the farmhouse is a total loss, Queen Creek Councilman Jeff Brown posted online. He said the west end of the building — the newer portion — has damage but appears salvageable. Councilman Brown asks the public to reach out to the Schnepf family via their Facebook page or to stop in this weekend to show their support.

“Their family began farming here 75 years ago. Mark, of course, served as our first mayor in 1989 upon our town’s incorporation. Schnepf Farms, of course, is a giant part of who we are as a town,” Councilman Brown posted online.

Well-wishers have been posting their support on the farm’s Twitter page @Schnepf_Farms.

“We have been going there for 15 years. Carrie personally let my little girls in one time when u were closed.” Alan Rudolph wrote.

“I am so sorry to see this. If there’s anything any of us can do to help, just say the word,” Maria Flores wrote.

Editor’s note: Through partnership Independent Newspapers is publishing information provided by CBS 5 News. The story can be found here: http://www.cbs5az.com/story/30723304/fire-destroys-farmhouse-at-schnepf-farms#ixzz3u22ORvdh


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