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Valley business donates car to Yarnell victim

The car given to the woman is shown. (KTAR Photo/Bob McClay)

PHOENIX -- A victim of the Yarnell Hill Fire is starting on the road to recovery thanks to the help of a Valley business.

The woman, who does not want to give her name or be photographed, escaped with her dog when the Yarnell home that she was renting burned to the ground. She lost everything.

"I've been wearing the same clothes for a month," she said. "I've got four tee shirts and three pairs of shorts."

The single woman's minivan also burned in the fire. When she tried to buy a used bike from Hybrid Electric Bikes in Phoenix, owner David Smedstad had another idea.

He told her, "I have a vehicle that we're probably going to be getting rid of pretty soon. It's an old work vehicle, but it might work a little better than a bike for you at this point."

Smedstad decided to give the 1993 Saturn sedan to the woman for free.

The woman couldn't believe it.

"I said, 'You might get a better deal if you take it and [donate it] to one of those charities that will take it running or not. That way, you could get the tax credit.' He said, I'd rather give it to you,' so I said I'll take it!'"

The car has a little sentimental value to Smedstad. It was his first work vehicle when he started his business five years ago. It now has 193,000 miles and some slight damage to the passenger side front fender, but Smedstad said it's been serviced regularly, the air conditioning and power windows work and it's in great shape.

The woman lost her job because the store where she worked was also destroyed by the fire. She said that since the fire, she's been having trouble getting help, even from her own family. She said they don't think she should accept any help, because she's a single woman and there are people who were hurt far worse than her. She disagrees with them, saying their beliefs are "unfair."

"It's almost unbelievable," she said tearfully. "It makes you kind of mean to have something happen to you, and then a lot of people not help you."

Before she drove in the car today, she hugged and thanked David and said that his generosity is amazing.

She has now moved to Phoenix to try to start to rebuild her life.

About the Author

Years with the company: I started on January 2, 2006.

Education: I was born in San Antonio, Texas, but we moved to Phoenix when I was one-year-old in 1957. I grew up here and graduated from Alhambra High School and attended Phoenix College.

Family: I live in north Phoenix with my wife Rene' and my son Devin.

Favorite food: Lots of favorite food, but our favorite restaurant is Fajitas.

Favorite spot in Arizona: The Little America Hotel in Flagstaff.

Favorite news memory: We have to go back to October 15, 1979. I was a country music air personality at KROP Radio in Brawley, California, when we had a 6.7 earthquake. Thankfully, there were no deaths and only minor injuries, but the entire community was pretty freaked out and listening to the station on their transistor radios. I would not want to go through an earthquake again, but it sure was a great night to work in radio and see how it can make a difference in people's lives.

First job: Working as a stringer for 'The Arizona Republic' at high school football games. My first real job was flipping burgers at the old Sandy's Hamburgers at 51st Avenue and Indian School Road. My first radio job was as announcer at KALJ radio in Yuma in 1977.

First concert: My Dad took me to see Jimmy Dean at the Arizona State Fairgrounds in the 1960's. It was before the Coliseum was built. The only thing I remember is Jimmy Dean singing his big hit "Big Bad John."

Favorite sports team: Phoenix Roadrunners minor league hockey. My dad took me to a game when I was in grade school, and I was hooked. I wanted to be a radio hockey play-by-play man. I used to take my cassette recorder and sit up in the rafters of the Coliseum and do play-by-play. It was great later in life to also take my son to Roadrunners games. Too bad the team just folded, I'll miss them. (Going to the Coyotes is fun, but they're not "my" team.)

Outside interests: My family and I are active in our church - Shiloh Community Church in Phoenix. Devin is a high school student at Scottsdale Christian Academy. He plays on the baseball, football, and basketball teams and sings in the choir. Obviously, we keep busy trying to go to all his events! We enjoy going to movies, sporting events, and long road trips. We like to vacation at the Beach Cottages in the Pacific Beach area of San Diego. And I love to play catch, basketball, football with my son.


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