Friday, December 8, 2023


Building an RV park: Our beautiful state is on fire!

By Machelle James
Our beautiful state is on fire – LITERALLY! The Bush Fire began on June 13, due to a car fire. It is the country’s largest fire happening right now and it’s in our backyard! Our town of Heber-Overgaard is not in danger, but we are upwind from the fire. We can smell and see the thick smoke at night. It is such an eerie sight to see the sky turn orange at 3 p.m. every day.

Fire at Tonto Basin. Courtesy

As of Friday morning, the fire has burned more than 150,000 acres – the fifth largest wildfire in Arizona history. I cannot even imagine what the people of Tonto Basin, Punkin Center, Sunflower and Apache Lake must be going through. Mandatory evacuations, fear, panic, loss. We are praying for rain and the winds to calm down as there were gusts up to 45 mph this past week.

Ironically, we just received our Burn Permit through Heber-Overgaard’s Fire Department two weeks ago. We had the Fire Department come out, inspect our burn pits, make sure we had a water source, and said we were OK to burn our tree stumps and downed tree limbs. Of course we cut them up and stayed outside with the fire pits all day.

What’s crazy is that we had neighbors call the Forest Service to come check out our fire. Why they would call them I have no idea, as we are on private property. So the Forest Service drove by, stopped at our entrance, and AJ walked over to see what was going on. They said, “Yep, it’s a controlled burn and you have your Burn Permit, so have a nice day.” They told us they couldn’t do anything anyway, since we are not on Forest Service land.

Burn permit approval with our local firefighters

We also had 911 calls placed saying our property was on fire. Since the Fire Chief knew we had our permits and were going to burn that day, he told the dispatch officers not to send any fire trucks out. He also asked them to thank the neighbors for their concern and inform the callers that it is a controlled burn.

Chief McCluskey is our Fire Chief and he works really hard to maintain a very good relationship with the town folks. He ended up coming by and we took a picture with him to post on Facebook to show that all is OK. What I learned is to post a notice on our Community Bulletin Board on Facebook and our Business Page before we do anything that may even look dangerous. We have a lot of curious and concerned folks here; and being in a small town, wild rumors can run rampant.

Our woodshed, before and after

We also had a day available to paint our woodshed. The building was left abandoned on our property and we were able to save it and repurpose it. It looks SO much better and surprisingly it is still watertight! Here is where we will store our firewood.

On the business side, I made a mistake on our final Board of Supervisors meeting. It is on Tuesday, June 23, not the 18th! So next Tuesday at 9:00 a.m., we meet before the Board and we should get the final approval. We were told our campground is super simple and small and they really don’t have any concerns for us to operate. I will keep you all posted on my next article as we are going to pull permits as soon as we get the green light!

We are currently working on our bid from our Septic Engineer. We were told it will be anywhere from $47,000 to $100,000. We need more of a final number to work with for our SBA Loan. We need to include concrete work for the tanks and that is coming in at about $20,000. So … when people wonder why camping costs so much when at a newer campground, this is why. We are not grandfathered in to any older septic system requirements, and I can tell you the new systems are much more sophisticated and energy efficient. They also cost double the amount, as well.

Speaking of SBA Loans, we have received our First Letter of Intent from a Bank! It’s like getting engaged before officially getting married. We meet them tomorrow to discuss our business plan and to build a relationship with each other and see if we want to work together. We will then get the offer with terms, and then we decide if we want to get “married” to each other. I am so excited that we finally have a bank that sees our Vision that I know I’m not going to sleep a wink tonight!

Thank you all for following our campground journey and See You in the Trees!

And please leave a comment!

Machelle, AJ and Jenna

Read previous articles here.

Machelle James and her husband, AJ, are building, from the ground up, a 15-acre RV park in Heber-Overgaard, Arizona, in the beautiful White Mountains 140 miles from Phoenix. Follow them on Facebook @ AJ’s Getaway RV Park or on Instagram at ajsgetawayrvpark.




0 0 votes
Article Rating
Subscribe to comments
Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

wanderer (@guest_84343)
3 years ago

Best of luck! Don’t freak out about neighbors calling in. I called in twice about bonfires that construction workers set near my home. Sometimes these goofs set a big fire and then leave for the weekend. That’s hard to not call in, especially in today’s world. I never assume a fire is under control til I hear it from the FD.

Machelle James (@guest_84495)
3 years ago
Reply to  wanderer

Great perspective, Wanderer! I am thankful we have such an INCREDIBLE Fire Department here. Very responsive, reachable and responsible!

Ray (@guest_84090)
3 years ago

Did you live there during the Apache National Forest fire years ago? We visited there a year or so later and Heber-Overgaard still had a lot of burned areas. Maybe that’s why people get a bit nervous. The husband of the friends we were visiting was Fire Chief at the time so he showed us the areas of devastation..

Machelle James (@guest_84494)
3 years ago
Reply to  Ray

I did not live here yet when the fires came through Ray. I can only try to imagine what it looked like back then. I can see the regrowth now, but NOTHING like it was before. I think you are right, people are very nervous about that happening again.

Steve (@guest_84054)
3 years ago

We have smelled the smoke from your fire in Denver. Several days ago, we had a southwest to northest-trending low pressure system come through Colorado. It brought a reddish-brown sky at mid-day and an air quality alert.

Machelle James (@guest_84493)
3 years ago
Reply to  Steve

I bet it did Steve. Our afternoons have been orange by 3 pm and it is so eerie to see. Definitely having bad air quality here too. A LOT of people are staying indoors to save their lungs!

rvgrandma (@guest_83918)
3 years ago

We have lived in area where the fire came up to the top of the hill behind us. Our kids were young and my daughter still does not like lightening because that is what started the fire. Where I live now, even though desert land we still have our fires. 2 of the last 3 fire seasons the hills around us burned – you could watch them at night.

Machelle James (@guest_84010)
3 years ago
Reply to  rvgrandma

Oh I can only imagine how scary that must have been to have a fire that close! And the lightning is no joke up here. It puts on quite a show!!

Tom Gutzke (@guest_83848)
3 years ago

Visited your area five years ago. Very beautiful. Seeing your regular updates makes me anxious to return and see some things that we missed on our first visit. Best of luck in getting approvals for everything. Hope to get out your way around 2021 or 2022.

Machelle James (@guest_84009)
3 years ago
Reply to  Tom Gutzke

Hi Tom! Thank you for the support and I do hope you make it this way. It is such an awesome town and so pretty! Let us know when you are headed our way!

John LeGrand (@guest_83629)
3 years ago

Good luck with your new campground. Looking forward to a visit someday..

Machelle James (@guest_83839)
3 years ago
Reply to  John LeGrand

Thank You John! We also hope to meet you one day and to thank you for your support!

Tim Burke (@guest_83570)
3 years ago

Best of luck with the bank!
Hope all goes well.

Machelle James (@guest_83845)
3 years ago
Reply to  Tim Burke

Hi Tim! Thank you so much! Our meeting went remarkably well and we think it’s going to be a GO!!!!

Sign up for the

RVtravel Newsletter

Sign up and receive 3 FREE RV Checklists: Set-Up, Take-Down and Packing List.