A Peek at the Peak: 1995 Photographs of Rio Fire

June 30, 2017

On July 7, 1995, a lightning strike, east of Scottsdale Road and north of Dynamite Boulevard, ignited what rapidly became the largest wildfire ever experienced in the Phoenix Metropolitan area. Strong, gusty winds drove the fire towards the southeast and when it was over more than 23,000 acres had been burned, including 14,000 acres in McDowell Mountain Regional Park. A Peek at the Peak magazine published the pictures shown here in its September issue.

On September 24, 1995 more than 800 people attended a celebration to honor the bravery of firefighters and policemen that battled the Rio Fire. Due to their strategy and efforts not a single home was lost. Thankful residents packed the event that was organized by the Greater Pinnacle Peak Homeowners Association (GPPHA), now the Greater Pinnacle Peak Association (GPPA), and Reata Pass Steakhouse. Proceeds from the event were donated to the county to begin re-vegetation of McDowell Mountain Regional Park. Residents were so generous in the months following the fire that our association was able to  make a $25,000 donation to the McDowell Sonoran Land Trust (McDowell Sonoran Conservancy) to help create the McDowell Sonoran Preserve. Don Schoenau was president of GPPHA when it organized the firefighter celebration. Cythia Lukas, who later served on the Scottsdale City Council, was the president when the $25,000 donation was made. Jane Rau, a past president of the association, co-founded the  McDowell Sonoran Land Trust.

Rural Metro Firefighters Battle Rio Fire.

Rural Metro Firefighters Battle Rio Fire.


Rural Metro Scottsdale Helicopter Attempting to Save Utility Building in McDowell Mountain Regional Park. Courtesy of Rural Metro.


Desert Devastation Near Dynamite East of Pinnacle Peak.


More Desert Devastation.


Ranger Surveys Damage to Flora at McDowell Mountain Regional Park.

On September 24, 1995, thankful Pinnacle Peak area residents packed this event to honor firefighters and police officers that contained and extinguished the fire without the loss of a single home.

From left to right, GPPHA’s Jane Rau, Barbara Copeland, and Bill Copeland enjoying the Firefighters Appreciation Dinner. Jane later co-founded the McDowell Sonoran Land Trust. In 2000, the Copelands led the effort to re-organize GPPHA from a homeowners association to a 501 c (3) nonprofit.

Related Articles

The Rio Fire Remembered; July 7, 1995

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Published on behalf of the Greater Pinnacle Peak Association by the editorial staff.

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