This morning, Holly Becker will put a turkey in the oven.She’ll exchange holiday greetings, catch up with friends and relatives over the phone, and then settle down to dinner with her neighbors.It sounds like a typical Christmas. But it’s not.Less than six months ago, the retiree lost her house in the Yarnell Hill Fire. In all, the late June firewiped out 127 homes in the mountain communities of Yarnell, Glen Ilah and Peeples Valley. Becker is one of the lucky ones. She and a handful of other residentshave rebuilt before the holidays.
Most homeowners have yet to start construction. Some are still trying toresolve insurance claims or have yet to hire contractors. Others have decided to sell or are debating whether to return. As they wait, they are living in rented homes in Yarnell or neighboring communities or staying in recreational vehicles on their burned-out land.
Members of the Yarnell Hill Recovery Group, an all-volunteer group helping to rebuild the community, are hoping that the new homes inspire others to rebuild.A pure coincidence, perhaps, but as of Dec. 25, Yavapai County has approved or is processing 25 homebuilding permits for the area. That represents about 20 percent of the destroyed homes.
The groundbreaking for Becker’s 736-square-foot house was among the first in August. Within two days of the fire, she found a house plan she liked on the Internet. Her insurance settlement went smoothly, and she chose a builder quickly.Her new home features a sloping, farmhouse-style roof and vaulted ceilings, different from the rustic cabin with low ceilings that burned down.
Her contractor, Mike Manone of Yarnell Homes, told her early on, “You know what? This is a small house. I can get you in by Christmas.”He made good on his promise.On Monday, the house received a final inspection and certificate of occupancy, clearing the way for Becker to spend the night in her new home, Manone said.
The past week had been a scramble. New appliances arrived. Her phone was installed. Workers put down a bamboo floor.
On Friday, a steady stream of Yarnell residents stopped by to view the house as part of a holiday tour of a half-dozen new area homes. Outside, white Christmas lights twinkled from the front porch. Inside, poinsettias added a splash of color to the kitchen.“Didn’t it turn out cute?” she said to a neighbor. “I love it!”Becker considers herself fortunate, even though she lost a home and antiques in the fire. She has another residence in the Valley, so she had a place to stay during construction, and the fire didn’t destroy all her belongings.