Woman remains optimistic after house fire

Hannah Grover
Kathy Chavez stands outside the charred remains of her mobile home on Saturday on Crouch Mesa.

FARMINGTON – After years of serving the community and giving to friends, a Crouch Mesa woman is now looking for help rebuilding after a fire last week destroyed her home.

On Saturday, family and friends of Kathy Chavez removed the skeletal remains of the charred mobile home from her property. Before retiring, Chavez worked at Head Start in Farmington and had previously been a crossing guard at McCormick Elementary School.

Even outside of work, she welcomed her friends into her home and helped people out when they needed it. She says she gave birth to four children, but has many more.

"I've always had an open-door policy...I'd rather feed them and have them sleep somewhere than have them out on the street," she said.

While usually she has three grandchildren who live with her in her mobile home, she was alone with her four pets early on the morning of March 13. Chavez was sleeping when the fire started, but she woke up coughing.

"I heard crackling and saw like a red light," she recalled.

Tracy Wilhite, left, and his son-in-law, Zach Hubbs, tear down Kathy Chavez' burned mobile home on Saturday on Crouch Mesa.

When she went to the bedroom door and looked out, she saw flames from floor to ceiling in the hallway only a few feet from where she was standing.

"I bailed out my bedroom window head first," she said.

As she escaped through the window, it closed on her leg. As she hung from the window, she used her other foot to kick it open again and fell onto the concrete blocks beneath the window. While she was stuck in the window, the fire burned the bottom of her foot and part of her leg.

Meanwhile, her son and his fiance and their 9-month-old baby were sleeping in a trailer next to hers.

John Paul Chavez, Kathy Chavez's youngest son, said his fiance heard Kathy Chavez screaming his name. John Paul Chavez ran outside and saw the flames underneath his mother's mobile home. He thought she was still inside, so he opened the door to find the structure consumed by fire. Then he saw his mother walk around the corner of the trailer.

The burned interior of Kathy Chavez's mobile home on Crouch Mesa is pictured. Chavez escaped the fire, but lost her four pets.

Kathy Chavez told her son to get his fiance and child and get out of their trailer, which was attached to hers by a porch. The four of them sat in the car and waited for the fire department to get there.

The trailer John Paul Chavez was sleeping in was not damaged by the fire, but it does not have heat or water. Before the fire, it had served only as a bedroom and storage area.

Despite having lost everything in the fire, including her pets, Kathy Chavez is trying to remain optimistic.

"Those things aren't really that important," she said. "The people are."

She was eager to see the burned structure removed Saturday so that it wouldn't serve as a constant reminder of what had happened.

"There's just too many memories," she said.

Her family is also remaining positive throughout the process.

"No matter what's burned, we've still got her," said Tracy Wilhite, her oldest son.

Hannah Grover covers Aztec and Bloomfield, as well as general news, for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652.

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