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ASU law student loses home, family ranch in Kansas wildfires

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Posted at 9:54 PM, Dec 19, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-20 00:12:35-05

PHOENIX — Heartache and destruction were left behind in Kansas, following devastating wildfires that broke out due to dry conditions.

The flames, fueled by 90 mph wilds.

A first-year law student at Arizona State University lost her childhood home, and her family’s ranch because of wildfires in Paradise, Kansas.

Sarah Pelton says the wounds are still fresh.

Though she’s optimistic, with the community’s help, her family will be able to build back what they’ve lost.

“There was nothing left,” she said when talking about where her family home once stood tall.

Pelton says the wind and fire took everything.

“Just two feet of ashes in our concrete basement. A few things scattered around the lawn. Everything is just flattened to the ground,” she added.

The fire was moving so fast that, before they knew it, black smoke was all around their home.

“You really couldn’t see anything outside, so we didn’t know if the fire was right on us,” Pelton told ABC5.

So, they grabbed the essentials and drove off— to get away from the nearby flames.

“There’s really not a lot you can do to save anything at that point. The fire just goes where it wants to go,” she added.

Luckily, she was able to get her laptop out which she needs for school.

While their family pictures were burned to ashes, to Sarah and her family, the biggest loss of all was their beloved animals.

“Just seeing the damage and destruction. It’s absolutely devastating,” she added.

The Pelton Ranch, which her parents built 40 years ago, was also wiped out by the flames.

“Seeing all their hard work with their business being torn down, it was very emotional for me and everyone in our family,” she said, holding back the tears.

Fortunately, they were able to save 200 cattle, and are in the process of relocating them.

“Ranching is a very time-intensive and a very thankless job. Out here feeding the world and…no one learns more about a problem than the person at the bottom. Right now, we’re pretty close to the bottom,” added Pelton.

Though she’s confident her family will slowly rebuild, above all, she’s thankful they still have each other.

“We’re just happy that everyone in our family is safe,” she said.

Pelton tells ABC15 she is going to use winter break as a time to reflect and come back to ASU with a more eased mindset.

She says it’s a privilege to be going to the same school Sandra Day O'Connor went to and isn’t going to waste any time getting the most out of her experience at ASU.

“She was also the daughter of a rancher, like me,” she said with a smile.

Pelton says while this is a hard time for her and her family, school is what will keep her motivated to keep going.

She says all she wants is to make her parents proud.