Tunnel Fire: People in Flagstaff area help veteran who lost everything in wildfire

In April, dozens of homes in the Flagstaff area were burned by the Tunnel Fire, and among those who lost their homes was a veteran of the Vietnam Conflict.

The Tunnel Fire, according to information provided by Inciweb, was declared fully contained on June 1, 2022.

The fire burned 19,088 acres of land, and at least 109 properties were impacted by the fire, according to a statement released on April 22, 2022.

Veteran's home destroyed

The veteran who lost his home was Lt. David Barthman.

Barthman served in the 82nd Airborne Paratrooper Army in 1969 and the 1st Signal Brigade in Vietnam.

"My father was a World War II veteran, and he would tell me World War II stories and how people would welcome their arms, and I thought, why didn't that happen to me? Better late than never," Barthman said. "This just made my day."

Besides losing his home, Barthman also lost other things, like his service medals.

Community rallies to help Barthman

In the aftermath of Barthman's losses, the community rallied around him.

On June 7, 2022, the community thanked Barthman for his service with a welcome home ceremony that he did not get when he returned home from the conflict. The crowd outside the American Legion Mark A. Moore Post 3 in Flagstaff gave Barthman a standing ovation.

During the ceremony, Barthman was also presented with his medals and his uniform, all made possible by the nonprofit Veterans Affinity.

"It is very emotional. I have tremendous gratitude for guys and gals who served before me. It really is an honor for me to be a part of this and set it up and to give them their recognition and accolades they deserve, so it is very personal," said Rick Kreiberg with Veterans Affinity.

As for Veterans Affinity, the nonprofit says these kinds of events can happen thanks to the community's donations.

Fast forward to 2023, firefighters in the area fixed up a second home on his property, so that he has a proper place to sleep at night.

The firefighters, who are with the Summit Fire District, spent $4,000 of their own money to fix up the home.

"We renovated that front door, put some new railing on it. His front door was locking into some dry wall, so we replaced the entire front door, hung a new one. We also put in a new wood burning stove," said Fred Flood with the Summit Fire District.

"The firefighters definitely rekindle my faith in mankind," said Barthman.

Flood and the other firefighters just knew this was the right thing to do.

"I think our community is super strong, and we're building back, and hopefully come back stronger," said Flood.

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