PIMA COUNTY, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Jill McCain was in shock Sunday, May 7, devastated because the custom-built home she designed with her late-husband more than 30 years ago is gone.
The Mulberry Fire which began burning about eight miles southeast of Vail destroyed it within hours.
She lost her 4,000 square foot home, a vacant trailer, her two cats, and more than 30 years of precious memories.
The 64-year-old widow left at 10 a.m. Saturday, May 6, to attend her grandson's 8th birthday party in Tucson.
Little did she know it would be the last time she'd be able to step foot in her custom-built 4,000-square foot home.
She talked exclusively to Tucson News Now to let the community know it was more than "structures" destroyed.
McCain worried she wouldn't have survived if she stayed home.
"I don't feel very lucky. With all that's gone on. I'm very grateful to be alive for my kids and grandkids, but this isn't something that makes me feel lucky," she said.
The Arizona Department of Forestry and Fire Management said the Mulberry Fire sparked at 2 p.m. Saturday.
McCain said she received a text message from a neighbor that afternoon warning her the fire was moving towards her home.
"I was shaking, just very upset," she said.
Her property is about two miles up a hill at the end of the dirt road east of State Route 83, the same road that leads drivers to Charron Vineyards.
McCain and her daughter drove from Tucson to try to see the property for themselves, but couldn't go all the way up because of safety concerns.
"We couldn't see. There was a lot of smoke and then my neighbor texted me again about being sorry and I said 'Is it gone?' And her wrote me back, 'yes,'" she said.
McCain didn't want to believe it.
"I'm in shock," she said. "I will do what I need to do. But I lost all my records, all my important documents, everything."
McCain still had her evacuation grab-bag packed in preparation for the Sawmill Fire, which was burning just a little further south the week before. and didn't have reason to bring it with her when she left for her grandson's birthday party.
The Sawmill Fire was announced 100 percent contained Thursday, May 4, and she had no indication or worry that within 48 hours of that announcement, another fire might spark nearby.
McCain is no stranger to tragedy. Her husband was murdered in 2010 and she's still dealing with that grief.
However, she continues to stay strong as she figures out what's next. All she knows at this point is that she has no plans to rebuild.
"I have wonderful neighbors out there. We all come together in times of crisis. I'm grateful more homes didn't burn down," she said.