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Trees of life given to Charlotte Fire Victims

By By Chris Cole
Published On: Jun 01 2013 07:52:32 PM CDT

Trees of life given to Charlotte Fire Victims

POCATELLO, Idaho -

It's been almost one year since the Charlotte Fire destroyed more than 60 homes in Pocatello.

Saturday, the Idaho's Hometown Hero Medal organization gave a special gift to the Charlotte Fire victims.

"We've lived up here for 47 years,” said Jim Tullis, who lost his home in the fire. “We built the home pretty much from scratch with our own hands. It was like a big tinker toy."

Jim Tullis and his family are just a few weeks away from moving back to the grounds where their first home stood.

Their story is just one that Idaho's Hometown Hero Medal organization says needs to be heard.

"I think we have an amazing community,” said Fahim Rahim, chairman of the IHHM. “There are some amazing stories of people who live here in our community and we need to bring them to light."

Each family received a tree of life in the form of a Canada Red Chokeberry.

Efrain Velasquez, who lost his home as well, said while he lost over 100 trees that day, along with his home, there was some good that came from the fire.

"There were a lot of trees that were hiding us,” said Velasquez. “Now that they're gone, they're actually exposing the people that we are. And we're positive people. We have a bond up here now."

Idaho's Hometown Hero Medal organization also donated $5,000 to the Pocatello Valley Fire District Station.

The station, which is located in the Charlotte area and was almost lost twice, will use the gift for radios that can work through the rugged terrain of the Charlotte Fire area.

One of the main problems they had during the Charlotte Fire was communication, something that Jim Tullis, an 85-year-old firefighter, knows all too well. He fought the blaze last year.

"I could see all the homes on Caribou, where my house was located," said Tullis, "except for my house."

He saved several houses knowing that his had been reduced to ashes.

From the ashes of his home, and the homes of so many others, comes hope, given in tree form by the Pocatello community.

"People in Pocatello are just unbelievable," Tullis said.  "They've helped us in so many ways we can't begin to repay them."

Idaho's Hometown Hero Medal is awarded to people nominated by their community members. If you know someone deserving of an Idaho's Hometown Hero Medal, click here to nominate someone on their webpage. 

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