19 Prescott AZ Firefighters Perish in Yarnell Wildfire
by: Lou Angeli
During my career, I’ve covered a number of wildland fire campaigns as a video and photojournalist. One thing I’ve learned is that when Mother Nature whips a firestorm, she does so with a vengeance.
This past Friday night a single bolt of lightning ignited a blaze, which spread rapidly amid high heat, low humidity and strong winds. Within 48 hours it consumed the town of Yarnell, Arizona and 19 Prescott firefighters who were protecting it.
I have deep respect for the men and women know as Hotshots, specially trained professionals who are sent into harm’s way to fight these massive blazes. There is nothing glamorous about their job. No monster fire engines, no water – just shovels, axes, rakes and a few chainsaws. Their work is backbreaking as they go about cutting firebreaks to deprive the fire of one or more of the fire triangle fundamentals.
News reports say that the Prescott Hotshots were forced to deploy their “shake and bakes,” emergency tent-like structures meant to shield them from flames after becoming trapped. Did the fire overtake them? Were they unable to make it to their safe area? Officials aren’t sure yet but "something drastic" happened, said Dan Fraijo, Prescott’s Fire Chief.
“Who could not admire these men, who risked their lives to save the lives and property of people they would likely never meet, and lost their own lives in the process. “ an Australian firefighter wrote. Selfless givers, they were absolute heroes, and deserve to be remembered as such.