The Times West Virginian

Opinion

July 5, 2013

Firefighters who perished bound together by love of work, adventure

In a year that has seen numerous tragic stories evolve since January, now we have another one that ranks with the worst of all.

Nineteen firefighters killed when trapped by a huge blaze in Arizona.

Nineteen firefighters! This was the biggest loss of firefighters in a wildfire in 80 years. And it was the deadliest single day for fire crews since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

But this was the kind of fire these men were hired to do.

This was a tragedy that has the entire nation in mourning. We can all picture these men, and most of them were young, going out to fight a fire that they probably all thought they could cope with in its early stages.

A wind-whipped wildfire overran them on a mountainside northwest of Phoenix. While it was not exactly clear how the firefighters became trapped, the blaze was thought to have “exploded into a firestorm” —a firestorm that overran the crew.

This was a “Hotshot” group of firefighters. That’s a name given to those willing to go to the hottest part of a blaze. These men were described as the best of the best. They were crews filled with adventure seekers whose hard training prepared them for the very worst.

This wildfire has burned about 8,400 acres, or about 13 square miles. That’s a lot of fire.

Firefighters are often known as “first-responders” — those who arrive ahead of everyone else to an emergency situation. First-responders have received a considerable amount of worthwhile praise since 9/11 when so many of them perished.

These firefighters just weren’t men who wanted to fight fires.

Each of these “Hotshot” members was required to pass the U.S. Forest Service’s “Arduous Work Capacity Test” — which entails completing a 3-mile hike carrying a 45-pound pack in 45 minutes; a fitness goal of a 1.5-mile run in 10 minutes, 35 seconds; 40 sit-ups in 60 seconds; 25 push-ups in 60 seconds; and seven pull-ups.

The “Hotshot” website describes the nature of their work. It “requires us to endure physical hardships beyond most people’s experiences,” according to the website. “Environmental extremes, long hours, bad food and steep, rugged terrain demand that we train early and often by running and hiking, doing core exercises, yoga and weight training.”

But now this group of “Hotshots” is gone. All but one of them. Nineteen out of 20. The only one who survived would have been with his buddies, but he was moving his unit’s truck at the time. That simple act saved his life.

Some were young fathers. Some were expectant fathers. Others former athletes, ex-Marines, etc. Some had fathers who were firefighters. They were bound together by a love of hard work and arduous adventure. Their average age was 26.

Arizona’s governor Jan Brewer called Sunday “as dark a day as I can remember” and ordered flags flown at half-staff. The Arizona Diamondbacks baseball team is wearing the No. 19 on the sleeves of their jerseys in memory of the 19 men who died Sunday.

This was another major tragedy for a country that has had too many tragedies for one year.

As the town’s fire chief told a large group in announcing what had happened, “Those families lost. Prescott Fire Department lost. The city of Prescott lost. The state of Arizona and the nation lost.”

How true.

1
Text Only
Opinion
  • If something seems too good to be true, then assume that it is

    Scam. noun. A confidence game or other fraudulent scheme, especially for making a quick profit; swindle.
    This is a word that Marion Countians have heard a lot about in the past few years. And the problem appears to be one that is getting worse every day.

    July 31, 2014

  • State must convince parents, schools about benefits of Common Core

    It’s always nice to have a little bit of background information before diving into something new.
    So we have to agree with West Virginia Board of Education president Gayle Manchin when she says the state should have done a better job of explaining Common Core standards when they were first introduced.
    Those standards, part of a national educational initiative that sets learning goals designed to prepare students in kindergarten through 12th grade for college and career, will be fully implemented in every West Virginia school district next month.

    July 30, 2014

  • Time is now for Tomblin to support King Coal Highway

    U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., is asking Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin to add the King Coal Highway project to West Virginia’s six-year highway improvement plan. It is a logical request, and one that Tomblin should act promptly on.

    July 29, 2014

  • United effort to keep NASA in Fairmont is essential project

    The high-technology sector is obviously vital to the economy of North Central West Virginia.
    That’s why a strong, united effort to keep the NASA Independent Verification and Validation Program in Fairmont is absolutely essential.

    July 27, 2014

  • COLUMN: Calling all readers: Be heard

    I love to talk to readers.
    I love to hear concerns they have about stories we’ve written, things they think should be included in the newspaper and things they think shouldn’t be.

    July 27, 2014

  • Korean War veterans are deserving of a memorial

    NEEDED: A total of $10,000 for the Korean War Memorial this year.
    And a good man has been placed in charge of the funding. Charlie Reese, former president of the Marion County Chamber of Commerce, is now director of the Marion County Development Office. His task was to make a recommendation as to what steps are necessary to keep the project moving.

    July 25, 2014

  • Roll up your sleeves, give blood and you can save lives

    It takes up to 100 units of blood to save the life of someone who sustains life-threatening injuries in a vehicle accident.
    We’re hoping that the number of people who come to Fairmont Senior High School on Friday for and American Red Cross blood drive will exceed that amount.

    July 24, 2014

  • Vehicles and motorcycles must share the road safely

    The days are long. The weather is superb. There’s plenty of leisure time in these lazy days of summer.
    It’s the perfect time to take a long motorcycle ride.
    It’s also the perfect opportunity for us to take the time to remind not only riders but drivers of the need to share the road. And we feel compelled to mention it because just within the month of July, there have been two motorcycle-versus-car accidents within the City of Fairmont alone — one with severe injuries sustained by the motorcyclist and the other with less serious injury.

    July 23, 2014

  • Too many taking too few steps to protect selves from skin cancer

    July 22, 2014

  • Distracted driving: It isn’t worth fine or a life

    Today marks the day that police agencies from six states are joining forces to crack down on one thing — distracted driving.
    And they will focus on that traffic violation for a solid week, with the stepped-up effort to curb distracted driving wrapping up on Saturday, July 26.

    July 20, 2014

Featured Ads
NDN Politics
House Ads