After losing their homes, vehicles and nearly all belongings in Saturday night’s junkyard fire in Rye, a family of five and one couple needs help starting over.
Stephanie Bigelow, Mike Williams and their three children lived in a one-bedroom rented trailer in the Rye mobile home park, one of the six structures destroyed during the 18-hour struggle to keep the fire from spreading into the forest. With the nearest fire hydrant 45 minutes away, crews relied on six water tender trucks shuttling back to Payson for 3,000-gallon fill ups. Although crews saved most of the trailer park, flames destroyed homes butted up against the side of the salvage yard.
Teresa Barnes, who lived next door to the family, lost her trailer and Ron Adler, owner of All Bikes, watched his home go up in flames, along with thousands of bicycles, motorcycles and vehicles he had amassed over 40 years.
All stayed in donated Payson hotel rooms this week, piling what little they had left in the corners of the rooms.
With her 2-month-old baby sleeping sweetly in her arms, Bigelow recounted what happened that night from the dimly lit hotel room, her boys piled around her on the bed.
She said the family had just finished eating tacos and was lounging in the living room. Mikey, her 6-year-old son, was coloring at the table when he looked out the window and spotted flames in the back of the salvage yard.
“He said, ‘Dad there is a fire in the bike lot,’” Williams said.
It took a few minutes for the words to hit Williams, who assumed it was smoke from a grill. But when the former volunteer firefighter saw the flames, he knew they had little time to escape.
“It was huge and I knew right then and there that there was no way to put it out,” he said.
He and Adler tried anyway. They put three garden hoses on the fire, but it did nothing to stop the flames rapidly advancing through the salvage yard.
Bigelow and Mikey ran to a neighbor’s house barefoot, Bigelow clutching a car seat with baby Hannah inside.
“Basically what I grabbed was the diaper bag and a bottle — that’s it,” she said. Williams and their son Gage, 15, stayed behind. Gage scrambled through the trailer, grabbing family photos and whatever else he could carry. He shoved them into a tunnel across the street for safekeeping.
At her home, Barnes had no time to take anything. And in the rush to save his property, Adler hadn’t saved anything from his house, which sat in the middle of the salvage yard.
“The danger with the gasoline and all those cars, it was just crazy,” Williams said.
Gage and Williams helped a disabled neighbor out of her trailer before the sheriff’s office ordered them out of the area.
While driving past their yard, Bigelow spotted flames in their shed and knew the home was lost. “It was surreal,” she said.
Like Adler and Barnes, the family has nothing. Their transportation, clothes, household goods and tools are gone.
“We are needy, we are very needy right now, we lost everything,” Williams said.
Their only vehicle, a Mercury Topaz, is nothing but a pile of metal worth $125 in scrap.
For now, they are borrowing a relative’s truck.
Barnes and Adler are sharing everything, including a cell phone and hotel room until they get back on their feet.
None had insurance.
The family says they need help getting work, finding a new home and putting stuff in it. Already, the community has generously donated bags of blankets and clothing, Bigelow said.
While their home is a total loss, one thing did survive the fire. The family found one porch post standing, an American flag flying from it untouched. “It was not even scorched,” Williams said.
“Everything else around it was just burnt” Gage said.
To help Barnes and Adler, call their cell phone at (928) 812-4689. To reach Williams and Bigelow, call (928) 970-2265.