Fire-Ravaged Town Feels 'So Surreal'
An American flag now stands where the 19 Granite Mountain Hotshots died June 30. Firefighters now consider the ridge hallowed ground.
Laurel Morales
July 10, 2013
Wildfire
Laurel Morales
Wildfire destruction in Yarnell.
Wildfire
Laurel Morales
Wildfire destruction in Yarnell.
Wildfire
Laurel Morales
Wildfire destruction in Yarnell.
Wildfire
Laurel Morales
Wildfire destruction in Yarnell.

YARNELL, Ariz. — The Yarnell Hill Fire may be almost completely contained, but the Arizona community it tore through is still reeling from the destruction

The first sign of fire is a line of orange fire retardant along giant boulders on the edge of town. Yarnell's motel, diner and grocery store still stand intact on its main street.

Head west to the neighborhood of Glen Ilah and you see the fire dodged some homes and completely destroyed others. More than a hundred families have been displaced, their homes now rubble.

Incident Management Team Safety Officer Bruce Malloy drives visitors through in a white van.

"It's just so surreal. Oh, it's very surreal. It was when I got here and these homes were still in flames," Malloy said.

The fire just missed Brant Stafford's home. He didn't know until a couple days ago that his house was unharmed. He said it was a horrible feeling driving down his street.

"Almost vomiting, sick to my stomach worrying about it. Just seeing what happened is very sad," Stafford said. "When you look at the houses that are devastated — friends and neighbors  — they’re just out of a place to live. I just hope they have insurance, and a lot of them don’t."

Across the street from Stafford's neighborhood the Incident Management Team has already constructed a memorial for the 19 firefighters who died trying to save the town. Public Information Officer Brad Pitassi points to a gray ridge in the distance.

"There's a flag waving in the wind at half mast, so that's the area where the crew deployed their shelter and that's our hallowed ground," Pitassi said.

While the town of Yarnell has suffered so much damage, residents say again and again that none of it compares to the 19 lives lost.