We've had drought in the last five to seven years, and it's just so dry that it just doesn't take much to get things going.
The Rodeo-Chedeski forest fire was the fourth largest in American history. Nearly half a million acres, and more than 450 houses, burned in the blaze that scorched parts of four counties as well as the Fort Apache Indian Reservation last summer.
Pinedale lost its fire station and four homes – a severe blow for a town of about 200 people.
"It's just a real small town," said Freeman Hershberger, a project director with the Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS). "It doesn't even have a store."
Most of the destroyed homes were insured, but MDS is helping to rebuild the homes of those who weren't insured – and lost everything.
"We've had drought in the last five to seven years, and it's just so dry that it just doesn't take much to get things going," he said.
Hershberger has been leading a team of volunteers in building a new home for Larry and Susan Denton, who came out of the fire with only their lives and what little they could carry. They had no insurance.
The Dentons had been living in a mobile home beside the construction site of what was to be a new house. Neither structure survived the fire. Only the burnt-out husk of their trailer, and the foundation of their unfinished home, remained.
The survival of the foundation turned out to be good news for the Dentons, because it means their new house will be a larger one than MDS normally builds, Hershberger said.
The existing foundation meant they didn't have to build entirely from scratch.
MDS volunteers normally build homes that have 800-1,400 sq. ft. of floor space. But since they already had a foundation on which to build, they decided to go ahead with the existing floor plan, which encompassed about 1,600 sq. ft., Hershberger said.
"It's just a real simple house," Hershberger said. "No frills and whistles, just a very basic home."
So far about a dozen volunteers have helped out with the project, and five people, including the husband and wife team of Darryll and Linda Graber, are living nearby the construction site.
Hershberger said that he is looking into building three other homes in nearby Show Low and Lindon. Construction of those homes, if pursued, will likely begin in April, he said.
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