Stressful, yes, but fire-hit areas pulled together

2011-06-21T00:00:00Z Stressful, yes, but fire-hit areas pulled togetherBy Fernanda Echavarri Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

Ana Rodriguez, a school bus driver, went to the information center at the Windemere Hotel Monday morning to get word on the status of her house.

Rodriguez put on her glasses and got close to the updated map on the wall. She pressed her index finger on the top of the map sliding it down through red zones that burned Sunday.

Her finger stopped at the corner of Hereford Road and Arizona 92.

"It's not in the red zone, my house is not in the red zone! Does that mean it didn't burn?" Rodriguez asked the crowd hovered around her also looking at the map.

Rodriguez's home, just east of Arizona 92 in a small area surrounded by burned areas where the fire hit Sunday afternoon, didn't burn. But it is still directly in the fire's path.

Less than 24 hours after heavy black smoke covered the sky, and flames could be seen on Miller Canyon from miles away, Rodriguez was back at work, picking up Sierra Vista elementary-school children for summer school.

Only half of the children who ride her bus were there Monday morning; the other half had been evacuated.

Like those kids, Rodriguez evacuated her home Thursday. She pulled drawers out of dressers and stuffed them inside her car, picked up a file cabinet with important documents and drove north to her daughter's house near Fort Huachuca.

"It's hard to go back to work after days of being out of our home. I had to buy my husband new clothes so he could go to work today," Rodriguez said. "But at least we had a place to stay and were healthy enough to go to work this morning. I feel for those who have health problems and have to be away from home."

When Rodriguez spoke of people who have lost everything, her eyes filled with tears. "Some of the kids I usually pick up may not have houses to come home to anymore."

Despite being an evacuee herself, Rodriguez has taken items to the evacuation centers nearby, and said she is ready to roll up her sleeves and help the people in her neighborhood who lost their homes.

The past week has taken an emotional toll on Rodriguez and thousands more who have left their homes behind hoping for the best.

One thing is certain: When disaster strikes, people in the community of Hereford and Sierra Vista help in any way they can.

Some volunteer their trucks to help strangers evacuate, or their showers for people; others collect food and water for the shelter.

Even teenagers who may not be old enough to drive or have money to donate are helping out.

Dozens of teens have spent days outside the evacuation center at Buena High School taking care of many pets housed there.

Susan Glandon and her teenage son take dogs on walks, wash kennels, feed animals, and comfort pets.

Some hotels in Sierra Vista do not allow pets, forcing people to leave them at evacuation centers because most hotels that accept pets have no vacancy.

Contact reporter Fernanda Echavarri at fechavarri@azstarnet.com or 573-4224.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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