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    Retired judge returns to fire-threatened home

    By MARY JANE PARK
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published June 26, 2002

    With the Missionary Ridge fires headed toward their second home in Durango, Colo., last week, retired Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Mark R. and Norma Jean McGarry packed their valuables into a rental truck and headed to a motel.

    On Tuesday, they were able to return to the cedar structure they built a dozen years ago.

    "Things are better today," Mrs. McGarry said in a telephone interview. "The power is back on. We've been in a motel since last Thursday. County Road 250 that we live on is still really blocked, and we're coming a back way, through the meadow."

    Only a mile north, the fire claimed 12 houses. The McGarrys stood with two firefighters and watched as it raced toward their property.

    "It was really getting pretty high and blazing out there," Mrs. McGarry said. "The Lord was really looking over us, to have it come that close. A lot of people have prayed: Our church has, the community has, our friends have. Everybody is just so thankful for the firemen. Their lives are in danger."

    Those trying to control the inferno are "trying to herd it north," away from the city of Durango, she said.

    The McGarrys, longtime St. Petersburg residents, will celebrate their 50th anniversary today at Bar D Chuckwagon Suppers Inc., a nearby restaurant that reopened Tuesday.

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