First of uninsured homes destroyed by fire breaks ground - KAIT-Jonesboro, AR-News, weather, sports

Fueled by donations, first of uninsured homes destroyed by fire breaks ground

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Steve Keehner digs the foundation for his new home. Steve Keehner digs the foundation for his new home.
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YARNELL, AZ (CBS5) -

Camera phones clicked as Steve Keehner orchestrated a backhoe to dig into his property on Oak Way. His wife, Debi, stood to the side with a smile she hasn't felt in months.

"I just started taking pictures, and I'm actually going to have a house again," she said.

The Keehners were one of more than 100 families whose homes were destroyed in the deadly Yarnell Hill Fire over the summer. However, the Keehners' home was uninsured, and Debi Keehner feared they would never have the funds to rebuild.

"We knew the risk we lived with, not being able to get insurance, but this has been home," she says.

The Keehners were one of just 11 families without insurance, although several more homes that were underinsured were destroyed. 

"Basically, we lost everything we had here," Steve Keehner said.

Donations poured in, and the Yarnell Hill Recovery Group set up funds to help families like the Keehners revive their homes from the ashes. Marco Cecala is overseeing the construction process for the nonprofit.

"Once we realized that we could have money to help out uninsured residents in the town, the next thing we had to do was make sure we were good stewards of the donors' money," Cecala said.

All of the uninsured homes that were destroyed by fire will be rebuilt with those funds. The Keehners' and a neighbor's home will be two of the first to see construction on Sept. 30.

"This community has pulled together, and we have an amazing community, and I'm very grateful for that," Debi Keehner said.

The homes will be rebuilt by volunteers and stocked with donated appliances and household items. 

While there's no timeline on when the homes will be complete, the Keehners smiled and said they will keep working until it's done.

For more on this story and other stories around Arizona from this author, follow Shawn Kline on Facebook andTwitter.

Copyright 2013 CBS 5 (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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