'I immediately started crying'; Hotshot fatalities hit home for Sierra Vista woman

Maggie Vespa

Photo: Video by kgun9.com

'I immediately started crying'; Hotshot fatalities hit home for Sierra Vista woman

CREATED Jul. 4, 2013

SIERRA VISTA (KGUN9-TV) - People around the world are feeling the impact of the tragedy at Yarnell Hill.

For one local woman, it hits home several times over.
 
25 year-old Kristen Knauss has been keeping a close eye on Prescott.
 
Last week, when she learned her childhood home was no longer in the line of fire, she was relieved.
 
Little did she know, the worst was yet to come.
 
She already feared for her family.
 
"First phone call I got was my mom and sister saying 'Oh my gosh it's on fire!'"
 
That call, two weeks ago, prompted Knauss and her boyfriend Jason Wallace to pack up supplies and haul them from Sierra Vista to Prescott.
 
Days later, after they'd returned, Kristen learned via Facebook, the fire had claimed something much more prescious.
 
"I immediately just dropped my phone and started crying," she said.  "It just, to know them personally, it's really hard."
 
Knauss knew a handful of the fallen Hotshots.  They were friends from high school and college.  She'd even dated one of them.
 
She says the danger of the job never seemed real.
 
"You understand that it's a possibility, but when it happens you never truly expect it," she said.
 
Now she and Wallace are, once again, reaching out.
 
They're donating 10% of the month's profits from their body shop to the families of those lost.
 
It's a symbol of thanks that, they say, is all too rare.
 
"Me being military, myself, I have more respect for a firefighter," said Wallace, who served in both the Army and the National Guard.  "You don't see little kids running up to firefighters in the grocery store, you know thanking them for what they do.  You don't see big old parades when they come back from fighting a fire out of state."
 
The two are also taking donations.
 
Knauss hopes her hometown connection inspires southeastern Arizonans.
 
"To support local law enforcement, anything of that sort because it's such a dangerous job and you never know when they're going to be gone."
 
Knauss and Wallace are keeping the fundraising efforts going through the weekend.  They're planning to hold carwashes at their Sierra Vista shop from 8 a.m. until noon on both Saturday and Sunday.
 
The business is called Innovative Automotive, and it's located at 689 E. Fry Boulevard.  

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