BAGDAD, Ariz. — After wrapping up her last day teaching for the semester and taking a midday nap, Jennifer Murphy got a phone call from her husband that potentially saved her life.
The town’s baseball field, which is located across the street from her home in Bagdad, Arizona, was engulfed in flames.
Murphy woke up and peeked through the window. She saw smoke and flames from a distance and stepped outside to take a picture, she recalled chuckling.
“About 10 minutes later, looked out the back window again and the hill had blown up, the fire had come up and it was on our backyard,” she said.
Murphy is a special needs teacher at the town’s pre-school. The last bell rang at 1 p.m., and the fire broke out two hours later.
The flames rapidly spread through one side of her backyard and advanced onto the walkway. Murphy rushed to get out of her home and grabbed her dogs and purse.
“By the time I got from the backdoor to the front door, getting the dogs leashes on them and my purse and coming out the front door, the flames were already around the house coming down the walkway,” she said.
Charlie, one of her bulldogs, slipped out of the collar and ran back inside the house after she said that the door had stayed opened because of the swirling air and smoke.
She stepped close to her fiery front door and called for him, seconds later he came out.
She suffered minor burns to her arms and chest.
“The clothes we are wearing, this is it, it’s all we got,” her husband, Patrick Murphy said.
Patrick Murphy was at the Freeport-McMoran mine, an open-pit copper and molybdenum mining complex when he heard about the fire in town.
“Looking at the house right now, she would have never made it, so I’m glad I called,” said Patrick Murphy as the couple realizes he had potentially saved her life.
The Murphys met when they were teens in Tucson. They moved to Bagdad nine years ago.
Last November they celebrated 30 years of marriage, but it has not been an easy road.
“My cancer just came back, and I had just spent the month of December in the hospital. I’m going through chemo right now, so God saved me again,” said Jennifer Murphy.
“He’s not letting me get rid of you,” Patrick Murphy joked as he rubbed his wife’s back.
In the few minutes before Jennifer Murphy got out of her home, the flames and smoke got so intense that she said it became hard to breathe. She said that she knelt and stayed low as she maneuvered her way out as fast as possible.
Thankfully she and her two dogs made it out alive, but their home was destroyed.
“There are some unreplaceable things, but you know what, [there was] no loss of life,” said Patrick Murphy.
The fire, that officials named the Spur Fire, burned 150 acres. It destroyed 13 residential homes and 10 secondary structures. Several other homes were left with smoke damage or melted sidings, according to Sergeant Ross Diskin from the Yavapai County Sherriff’s Office.
“Not only am I trying to evacuate the town, but I had to evacuate my family too,” said Diskin, who also lives in Bagdad.
The fire forced officials to evacuate the entire town of about 1,500 residents.
Freeport-McMoran, which owns all the homes in the town and rents to employees, paid for hotel rooms in Wickenburg and surrounding towns for evacuees to spend the night.
In a statement, they said, “The company is taking appropriate measures to provide assistance to those affected.”
On Friday the mine had “limited crew conducting essential functions needed to maintain the various systems for safety and environmental purposes,” the company said.
In a phased-out-manner, residents were allowed back in the town Friday afternoon, as crews contained 50% of the fire and continued to monitor the area for hotspots, the Arizona State Forestry said.
The Murphys don’t have a home to return to, but said they were prepared for that after they saw aerial images on TV Thursday night and confirmed it the following morning when a friend texted them pictures of the damage.
“It’s amazing that there are some family photos right on our hallway, from the pictures they took through the kitchen window, and they are actually still there,” said Jennifer Murphy, who at the time of the interview still hadn’t seen the destruction with her own eyes.
Although their home is owned by the mining company, they have renter’s insurance and say they plan to rebuild their life in Bagdad.
“We’re staying, we love it here, this is our home,” said Patrick Murphy. “If I have to live in an RV and send her to family, that’s what we are going to do.”
To help the Murphys, visit their GoFundMe page.
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