It was just feet away. A 40 foot wall of flaming fire rushing around his property.
“This was it. This was going to be it for me. I was going to meet my maker right here on my home and property. Once the fire got in there, there was nothing we could do that fire went so fast,” said Bear Valley resident Art Leuchner.
He stayed behind after Detwiler Fire evacuations to protect his parents and his family’s fifth generation property. Before he realized it, he was fighting flames.
“I was able to get here in time to start watering the grass to save our family and save our homes,” he said.
The army veteran’s family has lived in Mariposa for over 40 years. Leuchner wasn’t just protecting his home but his entire life.
“That was hard to swallow. I knew that if I didn’t fight hard enough to stop it here my parents were behind me,” he said.
It was then when he was looking death in the eye that fate stepping in, in the form of a fire fighting bulldozer, that stopped the advancing inferno in its tracks.
“He came up from that road. The fire line was in the back. He came up the road, pulled right behind the house, and locked that fire from hitting me,” he said.
For his daughter Jessica Roberson, who grew up in this home, evacuating and leaving her father so close to danger, nearly impossible.
“It wasn’t until sheriffs pulled up that’s when everything stopped. What do you bring? It didn’t hit me until I found everything ripping my photos off of my walls. We put everything in the car and we were out in an hour and that was it,” she said.
She said no home, even one as precious as the one that was saved, can replace family.
“It’s nerve wrecking this is everything to us this is home but at the end of the day I just want my family. First you’re worried about your home and then you don’t care anymore. It’s just stuff. At the end of the day you just want your family again,” she said.
Leuchner knows he was lucky and now has a new perspective on life.
“As close as it came to me I was a fool. All of those emotional things mean nothing if I’m not here. Standing in the face of a wall of fire you realize how quickly things can slip out of your hands,” he said.