Even after losing her Ahwatukee Foothills house to a fire at 3 a.m. on Monday, Marcy Tretbar shed her first tears later that afternoon thinking about all that her neighbors and friends had done to help her family.

"I just want to thank them all," she said. "It's just a great community."

Tretbar said she awoke around 3 a.m. Monday to the sound of the smoke alarm at her house near Fifth Avenue and Chandler Boulevard. She thought it was a clock alarm at first so she went and checked on the kids. They were both sleeping but she began to notice a thin layer of smoke on the second floor of their home.

"I ran downstairs to check the kitchen and there was nothing there but the door that goes to the garage is a metal door and it was all red," Tretbar said. "The arson investigators said that's what saved us was it was a metal door so it kept the fire inside the garage."

She woke up the kids and everyone got out safely but the garage was full of flames. Before fire crews arrived a neighbor tried to hook up a hose to fight the fire but it was too dark to see and the fire was moving fast, Tretbar said. Once the fire was out it was clear the whole south side of the home was a loss, including the car that was parked in the garage and the kid's bedrooms.

Investigators believe an old refrigerator in the garage was the cause of the fire. In the morning Tretbar's daughter was supposed to head to cross country practice with her Desert Vista team but she had to call and tell the coach she couldn't make it. After practice the team came to her, including the coaches, to see what could be saved from the home. Red Rock Racing Company donated trailers for the morning to help move furniture from the home to a neighbor's garage.

"Everyone from the cross country team came out here after practice. Even the coaches came out and loaded up what they could," Tretbar said. "They loaded up a van and stored everything in the neighbor's house. They brought boxes, bags, someone even ordered pizza for everyone. It was just great."

Other neighbors brought clothes and water to the family. Many people offered a place to stay.

I received a call about the fire from a friend of the family late in the afternoon who wanted to make sure the community knew there was an account set up for the Tretbar's. I hadn't even heard anything yet about the fire from our contacts at the Phoenix Fire Department.

When I pulled up to the home final paperwork was just being signed with the American Red Cross. Tretbar's son was sitting in the shade of another home and looked both dirty and tired. Still, Tretbar agreed to stay and tell me her story about how the community had stepped up to help in their time of need.

We stood outside her charred home, looking at the boarded windows and the great black streaks climbing the walls, and I listened as she tried to put into words how grateful she was. Grateful for the smoke alarm. Grateful for the neighbors. Grateful for everyone who had come out to offer their help and time. They have a lot of rebuilding to do but they also have a lot of help.

"That's all replaceable," Tretbar said. "Thank the Lord that we're OK and now we just start over. The cross country coach just said, ‘We're family, we pull together.'"

The team may be planning fundraisers for the future, including a meal train and a possible dance to raise money. For now an account has been set up for the Tretbar family at Arizona Federal Credit Union. Donations can be made directly to the "Tretbar Family Account."

• Contact writer: (480) 898-7914 or ahurtado@ahwatukee.com

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