PRESCOTT, Ariz. — While some people have contributed money to victims of
the Yarnell Hill wildfire, others have contributed their time.
Hundreds of people helped clean up debris, cut down trees and sift through the
ashes to help search for unburned belongings of the uninsured and underinsured.
Samaritan’s Purse and the Southern Baptist Convention helped organize
volunteers from churches throughout the Prescott region, said Steve Keehner, who
lost his Yarnell home to the fire. He was uninsured because his home was not
exactly built by a professional in 1936. Keehner has lived there since 1967.
“It kind of gives you a fresh look at humanity,” Keehner said of all the
volunteers. “About the time you think there’s no more hope for the human race,
people like that jump in. They’ve been a tremendous help.”
Mike Baker and his wife from Santa Fe were among the volunteers from
Samaritan’s Purse, which gathered together 545 volunteers for 46 work orders in
July and August. It’s a non-denominational evangelical Christian organization
providing spiritual and physical aid to hurting people around the world since
Baker said it took him a few days to convince the Keehners to let his
“It’s as much a blessing to us as it is to the homeowner,” Baker said. “It
doesn’t matter what religion they are or aren’t. They’re people.”
Samaritan’s Purse Program Manager Tony McNeil said his management team
primarily gathered local volunteers through its website and word of mouth, then
trained them at the Heights Church in Prescott.
McNeil had a special connection to the Yarnell tragedy because he knows the
family of Eric Marsh, the superintendent of the Granite Mountain Hotshots who
died in the wildfire alongside 18 of his crewmembers.
Keehner’s employer Redstone Resources also helped out by letting him borrow a
backhoe, and in turn Keehner helped a few neighbors with the backhoe.
While Keehner was talking about all the volunteers, a family of volunteers from
Mesa pulled up and asked if anyone needed help.
“I never dreamed the amount of people that just showed up,” Keehner said.
“These people don’t get the publicity they deserve.”
Keehner and his wife Debi found a box of books in what was left of their
basement, and all were singed except her grandmother’s Bible. They also found a
Mother’s Day plate their daughter gave Debi when their daughter was 6 years old.
They’ve been able to restore electricity on their property with the help of
church volunteers from Prescott, and now are staying in a travel trailer on
their property while they try to rebuild. The county waived its temporary power
Keehner also had nothing but praise for county officials such as Development
Services Director Steve Mauk, Emergency Services Coordinator Denny Foulk and his
assistant Hugh Vallely.
Foulk said 122 homes were destroyed in the wildfire and 11 were primary
residences that were uninsured. He estimated roughly 30 were underinsured.