SUPERSTITION WILDERNESS, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) - The Woodbury Fire burned dangerously close to Reevis Mountain School, prompting firefighters to dig trenches around the property and install an irrigation system, all while the man who built it from the ground up hoped for the best from afar.
"They made these perimeter trails around to keep the fire from coming up against the house, and then we put the sheet metal roofing up against the house in case the fire would get close enough to the house to get into the windows," explained Peter Bigfoot. "They did a wonderful job of protecting the house. They must've had a mile of fire hose around the place, sprinklers, all that kind of stuff, what a huge job."
Bigfoot is grateful for what the firefighters were able to save--which was the majority of the 13-acre property.
Reevis Mountain School is nestled in a canyon in the Superstition Wilderness, several miles away from Roosevelt Lake.
Bigfoot built nearly all of the buildings on the property, with the help of a few interns. He's called the place home since 1980.
"It's kind of like being wild and free," Bigfoot said.
On the property, there are dozens of different kinds of trees that provide shade and fruit, a garden full of home remedies, a variety of resources and materials, and buildings and yurts where people can learn how to live off the land.
All of that was in jeopardy in June.
"That's got a metal roof with cedar shingles on the side. I didn't think I'd ever see that again," said Bigfoot, pointing to a small apartment building for interns. "I wasn't so worried about the garden, but all our buildings were very vulnerable."
Bigfoot explained he made sure each building had a metal roof in case of a fire. Several structures, like a shower house, were also made out of stone.
"A lot of the rocks have stories that go with them," he said, adding that he teaches a masonry class.
One of the yurts at the school didn't make it, however. Fire officials said that a "portable yurt" had minor damage, but as Bigfoot stood in the empty circle where it once was, he begged to differ.
"That's not minor damage unless you're a minor and you did it," Bigfoot chuckled. "It was a multi-use building at one time."
Bigfoot said it was typically used a schoolhouse. Boy Scout troops could use it as a shelter, but it also served as a place where people could do yoga and other exercises. Now, it's completely flattened.
Fire officials say there were no structures lost or damaged during the fire because they do not consider yurts or tents "structures."
"Of course, every time I reflect back on what we lost, I reflect on what we saved, and that gives me enough joy to get through the whole thing," said Bigfoot.
The property is spotted with areas that are charred and dead, but most of it is still lusciously green from the extensive irrigation system.
However, what Bigfoot called his "resource yard" is now bare.
The area was filled with lumber and sheet metal, as well as other resources for building, and most of it is charcoal other than the now-warped sheet metal.
"When you live in a place like this, you don't throw anything away because it's too far to the store," said Bigfoot. "There was a lot of stuff here that--well, we had hoped to use in some way--somebody else had other plans."
All of Bigfoot's 73 chickens, turkeys, geese, and other pets were evacuated during the fire and luckily no one was injured. He said what was damaged can be replaced in time, but it's the vegetation that was lost that really hurts him the most.
"There's no mention of this thing--a tree. A beautiful, magnificent tree. I loved that tree. It was so shady and nice underneath of it and it's gone. Nobody cares about that. It's just, how many structures did you lose, right?"
Fire officials say the fire grew to 123,827 acres and is now 100% contained.