Rimrock fire destroys home: everyone is safe
By Don Decker, YAN News 1/8/19
It had been a great Christmas for Everett Randall’s grandchildren enjoying the holidays in their newly remodeled home in Rimrock on the Yavapai-Apache Nation. And thanks to Grandpa Everett, the Rimrock house has been a gathering place for the Jackson-Randall family although the grandparents have now gone on to the Apache spirit world.
This small 4-acre hamlet of the Nation’s land in Rimrock, which is considered an island community separated from the main Nation in Middle Verde, has drawn members of the Jacksons (through the marriage of the late Betsy Jackson and Everett Randall both deceased now) together.
Just a few days after Christmas Day on December 28, Gilbert Jackson, 26, recalls sleeping on the couch in the living room where a live Christmas tree adorned with flickering lights had been beaming on the faces of happy children few days earlier.
Gilbert, the son of the late Everett and Betsy Randall, is the uncle of the Randall girls Sianna Arvizu and her 2 children, another niece, Eula and son, Damian, and sister of Gilbert, Delphine Wathogoma, who were all sleeping in their rooms.
It was around 11:30 when Gilbert saw a “flare” from the Christmas tree branches while waking up from a deep slumber on the living room couch near the Christmas tree. An electrical short in the wiring of the tree lights.
“Oh, gawd, I jumped up and went for the fire extinguisher –and right when I went to get the extinguisher, on my way back, the tree just exploded,” recalls Gilbert.
“I freaked out—I used the fire extinguisher and I used all of it”.
Gilbert was thinking fast about how to put the fire out. Maybe go to the bathroom and fill a bucket from the bathtub faucet. But it was too late by then as the fire picked up speed and found its way into the attic of the newly remodeled home.
As the live Christmas tree began roaring with flames, Gilbert began yelling.
“I woke everybody up. I yelled, ‘Everybody get out’ ”, he said.
He continued yelling and when he looked down the hallway, everybody had vacated the rooms.
While moving throughout the house, the bottom of Gilbert’s foot was burned because of the intense heat.
“I was running back and forth and it was pretty crazy,” he added.
Two engines from the Copper Canyon Fire and Medical Department responded to the scene with the Rimrock unit arriving within 5 minutes of the call and the second engine from Camp Verde arriving shortly thereafter according to their dispatch office.
Gilbert said family members returned the next day to salvage personal belongings that were smoke-damaged with most of the clothes burned.
“ All my clothes, paper work, tribal i.d., my birth certificate was burned,” said Gilbert. The only thing he had left were his trousers, his shirt without his shoes or socks.
If there was a hero in the Christmas fire, it was Gilbert Jackson who had been sleeping in the living room next to the Christmas tree on December 28. And fortunately, there was no loss of life. However, the family lost all of their personal belongings.
The family are now in a temporary emergency housing on the Yavapai-Apache Nation in Middle Verde where they are now living latching on to what they still have…their family members.
Brian Kelley, who is the manager of the Market Place on the Yavapai-Apache Nation and his wife, Lyndell, are members of the family.
For donations to the family, please call 928-821-8906.
YAN news photos