AZ fire recovery continues

Freeman Hershberger and his Mennonite volunteers have been steadily working for the last year to rebuild northern Arizona homes destroyed by last summer's Rodeo-Chedeski Fire.

BY TRAVIS DUNN | BALTIMORE | July 16, 2003



"People are funny. They focus on emergency more than recovery."

—Freeman Hershberger


Freeman Hershberger and his Mennonite volunteers have been steadily working for the last year to rebuild northern Arizona homes destroyed by last summer's Rodeo-Chedeski Fire the fourth largest wildfire in American history, which burned more than 450 homes and half a million acres.

But now that the Mennonites are nearly done with their work they have four houses to go they have found that they are short about $25,000. That's about how much it will cost to purchase the construction materials for one last house. (Getting money for labor isn't a problem, since Hershberger and his workers provide that for free.)

Hershberger isn't sure where he and his work crews will get the money. That's not his job. He just directs the work crews, which have built homes all over the area, most recently in Show Low and Lindon.

The last four homes Hershberger plans to build will be around Pinedale, a town with a population of about 200 that was scorched pretty badly by last summer's fire, as well as one in Lindon. He's confident that he will get the money, but he's not exactly sure where it going to come from, since most of the faith-based groups the Mennonites usually turn to for support have already cut checks.

"We don't know where to go," he said.

Part of the problem in finding someone to cough up the cash, Hershberger thinks, has to do with all the media attention on the wildfires that are currently raging across southern Arizona. Hershberger understands that these fires are dangerous and destructive, but he also thinks that mess left over from last summer needs to be cleaned up first.

"I know it's taking away (attention)," he said. "People are funny. They focus on emergency more than recovery. The media's got to keep it in front of the people all the time. Nothing against the people, that's just the way it works."

Regardless, Hershberger has 20 people scheduled to show up in September, and he plans to lay the first foundation on Sept. 8. He figures that the last of the homes will be completed sometime between Thanksgiving and Christmas.


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