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Helping Residents of Yarnell Return Home

An employee crew assisting with the fire recovery: (left to right) Allen Ray, Mike Fikes, Frank Fay, Paul Carter (front), Donnie Rice, Greg Kubler, Nick Izzo, Mike Beckley, CJ Ellson

Less than week after a lightning strike ignited an 8,400-acre fire on Yarnell Hill in Yarnell, AZ, destroying more than 120 buildings and killing 19 firefighters, AmeriGas was called on to help prepare the area for the return of residents who had been evacuated.

The blaze, which ignited June 28, destroyed power lines and telephone service to the area, and while utility companies worked to restore those services, the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality arrived to assess the scene for hazardous materials, including propane. With no natural gas service in the area, nearly every business and residence in Yarnell uses propane for heating and cooking needs. That’s where AmeriGas came in.

Service technicians, bulk delivery reps, grill cylinder delivery reps, operations managers, dispatch supervisors and a customer relations representative from Flame Propane in Prescott, AZ, Titan Propane in Flagstaff, AZ, Flame Propane in Camp Verde, AZ, and AmeriGas in Glendale, AZ, banded together to remove every propane tank and cylinder damaged by the fire.

While Americans were celebrating their Independence Day, crews worked July 4, 5 and 6 to locate and remove damaged tanks and cylinders. AmeriGas was the only private company allowed into the area to assist before the residents were allowed to return. In some cases, employees worked side-by-side with the firefighters as they continued to deal with hot spots. The crew even included one employee who had been among the Yarnell residents evacuated. Initially, he was told that his house had been lost, along with his service truck, but several days later he learned that both were spared.

“It was a tedious and dangerous task because the sites all looked so similar. Everything was covered in ash, and many vehicles and crews were working in the same area,” says AmeriGas District Manager CJ Ellson. “By the time we were done clearing the tanks and cylinders, we were fortunate to find only five cylinders—20-pound and 100-pound—that had exploded.” In all, AmeriGas crews removed 300 fire-damaged tanks from the area to prepare for Yarnell residents to return home.

In addition to the recovery crews sent to the fire site, AmeriGas is donating $15,000 to the Prescott Firefighters Charities, which will go towards the educational fund set up for the children and unborn children of the Yarnell 19, and $10,000, intended for the Yarnell Fire Department, to the Yarnell Hill Recovery Group.

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