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Valley business donates car to Yarnell victim

PHOENIX — A victim of the Yarnell Hill Fire is starting on the road to recovery thanks to the help of a Valley business.

The woman, who does not want to give her name or be photographed, escaped with her dog when the Yarnell home that she was renting burned to the ground. She lost everything.

“I’ve been wearing the same clothes for a month,” she said. “I’ve got four tee shirts and three pairs of shorts.”

The single woman’s minivan also burned in the fire. When she tried to buy a used bike from Hybrid Electric Bikes in Phoenix, owner David Smedstad had another idea.

He told her, “I have a vehicle that we’re probably going to be getting rid of pretty soon. It’s an old work vehicle, but it might work a little better than a bike for you at this point.”

Smedstad decided to give the 1993 Saturn sedan to the woman for free.

The woman couldn’t believe it.

“I said, ‘You might get a better deal if you take it and [donate it] to one of those charities that will take it running or not. That way, you could get the tax credit.’ He said, ‘I’d rather give it to you,’ so I said ‘I’ll take it!'”

The car has a little sentimental value to Smedstad. It was his first work vehicle when he started his business five years ago. It now has 193,000 miles and some slight damage to the passenger side front fender, but Smedstad said it’s been serviced regularly, the air conditioning and power windows work and it’s in great shape.

The woman lost her job because the store where she worked was also destroyed by the fire. She said that since the fire, she’s been having trouble getting help, even from her own family. She said they don’t think she should accept any help, because she’s a single woman and there are people who were hurt far worse than her. She disagrees with them, saying their beliefs are “unfair.”

“It’s almost unbelievable,” she said tearfully. “It makes you kind of mean to have something happen to you, and then a lot of people not help you.”

Before she drove in the car today, she hugged and thanked David and said that his generosity is amazing.

She has now moved to Phoenix to try to start to rebuild her life.