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Family loses irreplaceable family heirlooms in Tunnel Fire

Posted at 4:15 PM, Apr 25, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-25 22:07:26-04

Families evacuated from the Tunnel Fire were able to return for the first time Sunday.

One family who narrowly escaped the fire, discovered generations of family heirlooms destroyed, including a classic car.

“I might tear up, it's still very real,” said Ashlee Binderim.

Binderim family car destroy

Nearly a week after the Tunnel Fire caused thousands of evacuations and destroyed dozens of structures, Ashlee Binderim is still trying to comprehend all that was taken by the blaze.

"Between 'Set' and 'Go’ when we got our evacuation notice was about 30 minutes which is just hardly any time,” she said, recalling last Tuesday afternoon.

Ashlee and her husband David were able to grab their pets and drive away.

They planned to come back and get more of their important belongings but highway 89 was already closed for what turned out to be most of the week.

With the road to their house blocked, they knew much of their livelihood was lost.

For the first time since the fire, the Binderim’s returned to where their house once was on Sunday.

They saw their home and garden, turned into ashes. The family heirlooms of grandparents paintings, delicate China and her wedding dress were destroyed.

And the 1966 Ford Mustang Ashlee and her father spent years refurbishing was also taken in the Tunnel Fire. She said she had plans to pass the Mustang, her first car, to the next generation.

Binderim family car, before Tunnel Fire

“You can replace furniture, that's fine. All those little things you can never replace. Love letters the list goes on and on,” she said.

Before their focus was solely on the recovery, Ashlee was working a couple business ventures.

In one hand, she held a paint brush where she would sometimes commission paintings of Northern Arizona’s Landscape.

In the other hand, a pen as a financial advisor for couples.

Some of the lives she touched through art or money management returned the favor following the fire.

"We are just blown away,” she said.

The apartment Binderim spoke to ABC15 in is a temporary place to stay given to her and David by his employer. More than 100 people have donated to them leading to thousands of dollars to rebuild their lives.

“When the rug really is ripped out from underneath you, and to know we have a community that caught us their aren't words,” she said.

For Ashlee, the loss may change surrounding – but that doesn't change who she is.

“We're going to take a piece of the mustang off and make something out of it,” she said.