Four years after devastating tragedy the community is working to put the pieces back together
“There were days when only by the grace of God were we able to continue.”
The last few years have been tough for the small community of Yarnell, Arizona. In June of 2013 the Yarnell Hill Fire…the third deadliest wildfire in U.S. wildfire history…killed 19 elite Granite Mountain Hotshot fire fighters and destroyed 127 buildings in Yarnell, a community of 700.
Two years later—almost to the day—while Yarnell was still rebuilding from the Hill Fire, a fire believed to be caused by humans, once again threatened the community. The blaze, known as the Tenderfoot Fire, struck the hard hit community. Quick response and systems put into place after the disastrous 2013 fire alerted residents and, although frightening for residents, the fire resulted in the loss of only three out buildings.
When the community regrouped from the second fire, they decided that they needed to make repairs and upgrades to their fire department and repair and upgrade their water system.
Forty some years before all of this, Yarnell partnered with USDA on a water loan for the community. Then in 2009 the Yarnell Water Association became the first American Recovery and Reinvestment Act recipient in Arizona with a $767,000 loan and a $533,000 grant. That partnership continued to grow over the years with thousands of dollars in help being invested in the community for things like the library and senior center. The devastation from the Yarnell Hill Fire rekindled that partnership and in 2013 USDA Rural Development awarded a $40,000 grant to the Yarnell Fire District to build a new helipad.
In 2017 USDA Rural Development stepped back up to help Yarnell with two important projects—repairs to water source distribution lines, tank, yard site, road, office and electrical for the Yarnell Water Improvement Association and a new bay, roof repair, generator, and breathing equipment for the Yarnell Fire Department. Yarnell Water Improvement District received nearly a million dollars in grant funding and the Fire Department received a $50,400 loan and a $77,600 grant.
Nothing erases the pain of all that was lost, but Yarnell residents have remained resilient with the help of folks from around the world who heard of their plight…and the help of their friends at USDA Rural Development.