As I sat down to write my next blog about a place we have been and things we have done, I thought of a more pressing issue that has my mind in another place and seems more important than my whereabouts. Betsy and I are both so saddened by the loss of the 19 Prescott Hotshot Firefighters and feel a tremendous grief for their families.
Having worked as a wildland firefighter, I know how dangerous it can be but also the lure and excitement that fire can have on a person. Wildland firefighters work in treacherous conditions and in some of the most dangerous situations but make a conscious choice to do so. They rely on experience, training, fire and weather information, instinct, and whatever help from above may be offered. The thought of being over-run by a fire is a firefighters worst nightmare. The most important item in the fire pack is the fire shelter – the item you hope you never have to use. During our annual fire refresher we practiced deploying the shelter which left the impression of how dangerous the job was.
Hotshots are an elite, well-trained cohesive group of men and women that work in close teams and form a strong bond with each other. You may think of them as tough individuals who just fight wildland fires but they are called to do so much more. They scoured the earth for debris after the Challenger disaster, were sent to New York City to help after the Twin Tower collapsed, and they responded as clean-up crews when major hurricanes devastated areas. On a personal note, they were instrumental in getting the park I worked at in New Orleans back together after Hurricane Katrina by clearing debris from buildings, roads and trails. They came in and worked quietly doing our jobs for us while we were displaced and focused on personal recovery.
Having worked with Hotshot crews and known people who have lost loved ones in wildland fires, my heart goes out to them and their families.