The coverage in the July 7 issue on the Yarnell Fire and our loss of 19 firefighters is commendable. I sat with tears in my eyes for days watching the news and tracking fire reports on my computer, and finally reading the story “Fire brewed into storm, turned tragic in Arizona” about the lost lives.
As a veteran of Type I and II Fire Teams, I can say that these “high risk situations” occur all the time on fires, both with structural urban firefighters and with wildland firefighters; it’s the nature of the job. Understanding fire behavior is critical to survival, especially under extreme hot and windy conditions. Wind is almost always your enemy but you also use it to your advantage when igniting a back fire to control the fire spread.
It’s very difficult for nonfirefighting citizens to fully comprehend the conditions firefighters face when temperatures exceed 100 degrees and then you add the heat coming from the fire, the constant smoke, ticks, snakes, dirt, drinking water turning hot and even running out with hours of work still to go, trying to sleep off-shift in hot weather on the ground, day after day. It’s very difficult to fully explain. We just have to be thankful that young men and women are up to the challenge.