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Yarnell showing rebuilding spirit during holidays

PHOENIX -- Signs of recovery have some Yarnell residents getting into the Christmas mood.

They plan to sing the song "I'll be Home for Christmas" at Friday afternoon's dedication of the first six homes to be rebuilt after last June's massive Yarnell Hill fire.

The public will have the chance to tour the homes starting at 3:30 p.m., followed by the dedication at 5:30. The homes have Christmas lights that will be turned on during the dedication.

Yarnell Hill Recovery Group Director Chuck Tidey said this is a sign that Yarnell is making a comeback.

"It let's everybody know that we're on the road to recovery," he said.

The recovery group used donated funds and volunteers to build five of the homes for uninsured homeowners. The sixth home was built for an insured homeowner by Yarnell Homes, the town's newest business.

In addition to the home tour, the Yarnell Chamber of Commerce will host a holiday lighting competition Sunday.

"We've got three categories," said Tidey. "The first is personal homes for Yarnell and Glen Ilah. The second is for Peeples Valley and the third category is Commercial Businesses."

The winners get a $100 gift certificate from local businesses, while the runners up get gift baskets from those businesses.

Tidey said that the area is making an amazing recovery after the fire.

"We had 122 homes burned. Right now, we've got at least 18 in the process of being rebuilt. That's 15 percent over five and a half months," he said. "It's an unheard of pace, from what I've been told by state and county emergency management people."

About the Author

Years with the company: I started on January 2, 2006.

Education: I was born in San Antonio, Texas, but we moved to Phoenix when I was one-year-old in 1957. I grew up here and graduated from Alhambra High School and attended Phoenix College.

Family: I live in north Phoenix with my wife Rene' and my son Devin.

Favorite food: Lots of favorite food, but our favorite restaurant is Fajitas.

Favorite spot in Arizona: The Little America Hotel in Flagstaff.

Favorite news memory: We have to go back to October 15, 1979. I was a country music air personality at KROP Radio in Brawley, California, when we had a 6.7 earthquake. Thankfully, there were no deaths and only minor injuries, but the entire community was pretty freaked out and listening to the station on their transistor radios. I would not want to go through an earthquake again, but it sure was a great night to work in radio and see how it can make a difference in people's lives.

First job: Working as a stringer for 'The Arizona Republic' at high school football games. My first real job was flipping burgers at the old Sandy's Hamburgers at 51st Avenue and Indian School Road. My first radio job was as announcer at KALJ radio in Yuma in 1977.

First concert: My Dad took me to see Jimmy Dean at the Arizona State Fairgrounds in the 1960's. It was before the Coliseum was built. The only thing I remember is Jimmy Dean singing his big hit "Big Bad John."

Favorite sports team: Phoenix Roadrunners minor league hockey. My dad took me to a game when I was in grade school, and I was hooked. I wanted to be a radio hockey play-by-play man. I used to take my cassette recorder and sit up in the rafters of the Coliseum and do play-by-play. It was great later in life to also take my son to Roadrunners games. Too bad the team just folded, I'll miss them. (Going to the Coyotes is fun, but they're not "my" team.)

Outside interests: My family and I are active in our church - Shiloh Community Church in Phoenix. Devin is a high school student at Scottsdale Christian Academy. He plays on the baseball, football, and basketball teams and sings in the choir. Obviously, we keep busy trying to go to all his events! We enjoy going to movies, sporting events, and long road trips. We like to vacation at the Beach Cottages in the Pacific Beach area of San Diego. And I love to play catch, basketball, football with my son.


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