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Vietnam veteran loses war medals in Tunnel Fire, neighbors hope to help

Posted at 7:54 PM, Apr 26, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-27 00:46:48-04

FLAGSTAFF, AZ — A Vietnam veteran who has lived in Flagstaff for nearly three decades lost his war medals in the Tunnel Fire.

David Barthman, 74, has lost everything he owns including his service medals and uniform after the fast-moving wildfire came through just outside of Flagstaff last week.

Barthman lives on 2.5 acres and was living in a small guest home on his property while he worked to rehabilitate a larger property he owns.

As of Tuesday night, the Tunnel Fire has burned 19,344 acres and is 30% contained.

Despite the thought of losing everything, Barthman tells ABC15 that he doesn’t see it as having to start over, “it’s not starting over, it’s recovering,” he said.

The 74-year-old did not have home owner’s insurance at the time because he chose to use the payments to afford a wood stove to heat the larger home.

“While our wonderful community has provided so much to help this veteran out of this horrible situation, I would like to try to go one step further to restore his faith in humanity,” said Cindy Garcia in a post on an online fundraiser for him. Garcia writes that the smaller home he was staying in is a second income for him as he rents it out as a guest house, “We would like to rebuild this guest house to restore that income and to complete the repairs that had not been completed, to the larger home to make it livable.”

For Barthman, he was trying to be optimistic about his situation, but realizes how much work he still needs done on the other home, “and, this is no fun, believe me,” he said, “you take the good with the bad.”

Garcia, who is Barthman’s neighbor, said people around the area have donated goods to him — from a microwave to a refrigerator, to bags of clothing. She hopes to help her neighbor find a way to get a new set of medals.

The Tunnel Fire has cost more than $2.5 million to fight just outside Flagstaff, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.

Coconino County shared that the Community Assistance Center will be open on Thursday to help those in need.

The Tunnel Fire Community Assistance Center (CAC), will be open tomorrow, 4/27 from 9 am – 5 pm at The Guidance Center, 2695 E Industrial Dr, Flagstaff. Beginning Thurs., 4/28, services will be available virtually online here or call 928-679-8525.