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Family loses home in Tunnel Fire with mother's ashes inside

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Posted at 7:52 PM, Apr 22, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-23 01:14:04-04

FLAGSTAFF — The question of what you grab if your house was on fire was answered by dozens of families north of Flagstaff this week. One family collected what they could, but forgot something irreplaceable.

Surviving a wildfire isn't anything new for Trisha Peralta and her family.

Her childhood home escaped the Schultz Fire back in 2010.

On Tuesday afternoon as high wind spread the Tunnel Fire to thousands of acres, Peralta's father Edward Leazier watched the blaze start to take the home he raised his family in.

"It was heartbreaking, because he said when he saw the flames on the porch and he though about going to put them out and realized it was actually coming from underneath the house. And at that point he new it was just gone," said Peralta.

Over two decades of memories — taken in minutes.

Peralta says the fire moved faster than any notification to evacuate.

She said as he family was driving away, they realized they left behind the ashes of their mother, Monica, who just recently passed away in December 2021.

"After the Schultz fire, she didn't like leaving the house. She was afraid if she left it would be gone when she got back. It was hard to get her to go any place," said Peralta.

Their home was one of dozens of structures lost so far in the Tunnel Fire.

Peralta said she started a crowdfunding account for her 72-year-old father who plans to rebuild on the property once allowed to return.

On Friday, snow fell on and off throughout the day.

Fire officials tell ABC15 red flag winds dried up any moisture before it could help contain the fire that's burned thousands of acres so far.

However colder temperatures were an advantage for those battling the blaze.

At Northern Arizona University, the president sent a letter that they'll be donating $25,000 to United Way to help those affected by the Tunnel Fire.

"In the last 24 hours alone, I've had direct conversations with three members of our university community whose lives have been deeply affected by the fire and have learned of many others who are living minute-by-minute in fear of what may be in store for them and their loved ones," wrote President José Luis Cruz Rivera to the campus on Friday.

And over at the Coconino County Fairgrounds, about 120 livestock animals owned by those who had to evacuate are housed in stables and shelters. The space is big enough for horses to run.

Charlotte Peterson is supervising the animals but she, too, had to leave her property behind.

"I feel really bad for the people that lost their homes, there's a few of them in here that aren't able to go back. I'm lucky," said Peterson.

Another community meeting is slated for Saturday, 2 p.m. at Sinagua Middle School.