Councilman playing with fire and dissing on neighbors

John Hoeppner

When is it okay to play with fire in the desert? Councilman Paul Diefenderfer, with the encouragement and support of Mayor Ernie Bunch, believes that welding in the desert is not a dangerous sport even during the Town’s recent declaration of “Extreme” fire danger.  In fact, on FaceBook both Diefenderfer and Bunch have invited the public to attend a Desert Rat Forge outdoor welding demonstration in heavily vegetated, dry Rowe Wash at 75th and East Highland Road in Cave Creek. This location is where Diefenderfer resides in a small parked trailer among a stack of 5 or 6 cargo containers, with an open steel sided building and a garden hose.  This hazardous welding demonstration during a time of “Extreme” fire danger is opposed by 100% of the area residents and is an irresponsible act that flies in the face of common sense and public safety.

Published in July 2018, in a column entitled “Mayor Bunch Writes” the Mayor stated the following:

“I supported Councilwoman Wright, Mike Baxley and our attorney in crafting of the ordinance and Council passed it with a 7 -0 vote.  It is very simply about the health, safety and welfare of our town. The following are the rules for a Stage II declaration.” The Mayor’s item number six on the list – “No welding or operating an acetylene or other torch with open flame.”

Unfortunately, for Town residents no such ordinance actually exists.  I visited Town Hall and asked for a copy of the fire ordinance referred to in the Mayor’s column. I was given Ordinance No. 02017-07. This ordinance only refers to fireworks with a section allowing the Town to deny a permit to businesses during periods of “High Fire Danger Warnings.” For that reason, last month Harold’s was denied a permit by the Town for this year’s July Independence Day fireworks celebration.

Subsequently, on May 23rd the Tonto National Forest issued increased fire restrictions on the area surrounding the Town of Cave Creek. Those restrictions apply to using welding equipment or torches with open flames.  A violation of these fire restrictions is punishable by a fine of up to $5,000 and imprisonment for up to six months.  On June 25th The Town of Cave Creek followed with the same level of fire danger. Does this mean our elected representatives are criminals?

Despite all the warnings and multiple human-caused fires in the Cave Creek area over the past two weeks we are to believe welding in the desert is safe.  Mayor Bunch wrote to a concerned citizen, “Bottom line, there are no Cave Creek ordinances or rules being broken. I would suggest you contact the Councilman (Diefenderfer), discuss your concerns, and perhaps visit his site. I’m positive he would be more than willing to share with you the precautions he is taking.”

Whoa! In July of 2018 the Mayor said there was a Cave Creek ordinance prohibiting welding among other fire-causing activities.  What has changed since July 2018?  Eileen Wright is off the Council and Paul Diefenderfer was narrowly elected with the endorsement of Mayor Ernie Bunch. Cronyism?

Councilman Deifenderfer’s current disregard and nastiness towards his neighbors is not a surprise to members of the Arizona Mountaineering Club.  He resigned as president in the midst of many controversies and an avalanche of lawsuits and countersuits that rocked the 30-year-old club.  According to an article in the “New Times” – “Diefenderfer got out of hand at the meetings. Describing his former friend and colleague Chet Wade “as a liar, an idiot, a bastard and an asshole.”

Councilman/Welder Diefenderfer describes himself as a self-taught welder.  According to he is inviting any and all hobbyists to his hillbilly heaven on Highland Road to play with fire. He says “forges and anvils are ready” and “Have fun with propane or coal forge, flypress, powerhammer, widgets and gadgets.”  Does he realize that welding sparks travel up to 35 feet horizontally reaching temperatures of 2,500 degrees? Unbelievably, he invites these strangers to park on my private road and walk 700 feet to his property!  Are you kidding me?

Here are the comments from Councilman Diefenderfer’s neighbors:

  • Thank you, councilman, for agreeing that your concerned neighbors are ignorant (Diefenderfer’s response – “I don’t know what else to call it when people refuse to get the facts.”)
  • I’m still fairly new to the area, but this post just made up my mind that I will not be voting for Paul next time around with these negative and insulting remarks to fellow creekers. Very disappointing.
  • It’s welding outside in a residential neighborhood! and it’s not okay. The mayor should have the backs of all the people in town and not backing up 1 council member.
  • What seems to have unfolded is .. you are welding outside in the desert and if people are concerned ..  they are ignorant and just negative . Would expect some respect and consideration from someone elected.
  • He may be well within his rights to build whatever but he and the town council are not within their rights to place the surrounding properties in jeopardy of fires due to his welding, grinding and whatever else could spark a fire! AND I never see a CC inspector over there…nor any inspection tags ie, red/green. Is the town of CC turning a blind eye to this structure because he’s a councilman and/or this dangerous fire hazard isn’t in their backyard?? Just my concerns as we watch the desert burn in the ‘Mountain Fire’. Are we next?
  • Telling someone it’s ok to weld because there are no rules or regulations is a disregard of common sense in such a high fire season
  • Try living 3 doors down. My 1.4M dollar home is finally paid for and more than that put into it!! I’ll remember this when I vote!
  • Apparently, the Town of Cave Creek would rather protect one of their own rather than look out for the health, safety and welfare of the rest of the community.
  • Although he states that he has hoses and fire extinguishers at hand should a fire start, what good are those items when he leaves his property to get lunch, dinner, whatever and doesn’t notice an ember he’s left behind unknowingly…POOF!! Our homes are gone!!? Again, he leaves that property multiple times during the day. It’s just a matter of time.
  • You know they aren’t going to do a thing to control him. We’re at the mercy of God, now, as ever. It is my hope God puts up His hand against the fire. This place is a bundle of kindling.

The Cave Creek Council needs to set politics aside and do what is right by passing a fire ordinance that protects the citizens. This includes the list of regulations that Mayor Bunch included in his July 2018 publication including the elimination of all welding or other fire-causing hazardous businesses from residentially zoned areas.  Act now before it’s too late.

John Hoeppner served on the 1985-86 Cave Creek Incorporating Committee and twenty-years of service as the Republican Cave Creek Precinct Captain and State Committeeman. John is recognized worldwide as a leading expert in the discipline of brand research and development. He has received five prestigious AMA Edison Awards for domestic and global Fortune 500 clientele. On FaceBook at Cave Creek The Town Too Tough To Govern


This is an image from a video the Councilman posted on Facebook

Councilman Diefenderfer was using a lit torch in an attempt to start a wildfire in our neighborhood.

He wanted to make a point that a garden hose was an effective fire fighting tool.

Right now in the Tonto National Forest and elsewhere in the state this act is a crime punishable with a $5,000 fine and 6 months in jail.  In Cave Creek this irresponsible act seems to be a badge of honor.  Playing with fire when the Town has posted “Extreme” fire danger signs is irresponsible and stupid – especially for an elected Councilman.

In the first hour of the Cave Creek Complex fire 10-12 square miles were burned to the ground.  At the most this means we have 10 to 15 minutes to get out.