Tuesday, July 02, 2013

RIP to the 19 firefighters killed in Arizona

I would like to take this opportunity to talk about the fire in Arizona, USA which has claimed the lives of 19 firefighters.

The fire started after a lightning storm on Friday (June 28) in Arizona, USA as has so far destroyed 8400 acres of land. Approximately 1000 people have had to vacate their homes, and 200 houses have been claimed by the fire.

I have left it a few days since the news broke to write this post as I am still finding it very difficult to write.

My heart really goes out to the families of the firefighters who have died in this fire. As a daughter of a UK firefighter, I know how scary it can be when they go off to a call, but I cannot even begin to comprehend the pain and emotion these families are going through at the moment. Some of these men are so unbelievably young; they didn't get the chance to even start their lives properly. 

I read an article today on the Daily Mail website about the last conversation between Juliann Ashcraft and her husband who was attending to the fire, Andrew Ashcraft. I hope that she would not mind me writing this post. Her husband had been continuously texting her throughout the day to inform her that he was OK, until he stopped texting. I won't lie, I was in tears after reading that article. He leaves behind 4 young children. I am refraining from putting pictures of her and her family up on my website as I believe this would be a breach of their privacy, and I would not want to affect them at this sad time. You can read more about her story by clicking here.

Each of the men who died in this fire, in my opinion, died heroes. Now you may dispute this, but I think anyone, no matter how little someone may think their existence may be, is a hero when they put their lives on the line daily in order to save the life of someone else. These men were trying to extinguish a fire, despite being caused naturally, was destroying the lives of thousands of people. It is completely unarguable in my head that these men did absolutely everything they could to keep the residents of the Arizonian town safe, I find it very sad that in this circumstance that it then involved them losing their own lives.

The emergency shelters that the men had put up in order to protect them from the fires unfortunately did not save them from the fire, nor could the helicopters. It has been reported that when the bodies of the men were found, some where inside their shelters whilst others were outside, suggesting that the fire has overcome them very quickly.

This has been the biggest incident claiming the lives of firefighters since 9/11, and is the deadliest blaze for firefighters in America for almost 80 years. The entire crew for this city was claimed by this fire, apart from one survivor who is in a critical condition.

To anyone who wishes to say that the firefighters must have been in the wrong (I have seen several comments surface on the internet saying this), I would like to say that firefighters are trained to the highest of standards, and they were undoubtedly following the safety protocol here, and that is was the unpredictability of the fire which in fact claimed their lives.

Fire Chief Dan Fraijo has been quoted saying "we grieve for the family. We grieve for the department. We grieve for the city. We're devastated. We just lost 19 of the finest people you'll ever meet".

Residents of the town have been since laying down tributes and flowers outside the gates of the fire station since the news broke on Monday. I sincerely hope, for the memory of these men, that they are rewarded for their bravery in some way. These men deserve the highest of commendation for their sacrifice. I don't care what anyone else says, they really do deserve that.

Over 1000 people gathered on Monday night in the gymnasium of the university in Prescott, Arizona in memory of the 19. President Obama has called the men heroes, and has since deployed other crews to help as the fire still continues to burn.

Here are the names of the 19 men who were killed:
Andrew Ashcraft - 29
Robert Caldwell - 23
Travis Carter - 31
Dustin Deford - 24
Christopher MacKenzie - 30
Eric Marsh - 43
Grant McKee - 21
Sean Misner - 26
Scott Norris - 28
Wade Parker - 22
John Percin - 24
Anthony Rose - 23
Jesse Steed - 36
John Thurston - 32
Travis Turbyfill - 27
William Warneke - 25
Clayton Whitted - 28
Kevin Woyjeck - 21
Grant Zuppiger - 27

Writing so many names is horrible. I will not be putting pictures up of these men.

Reading and having to write about something like this makes me really appreciate the fact that after over 20 years in the fire service, I still have my dad safe and sound. I couldn't even tell you how scary it is every time I know my dad is out on a call, and there is always that horrible little voice in the back of your head saying "what if he doesn't come back?". Just thinking about that really gets to me, so knowing that these people are currently having to go through that is so heartbreaking. 

My thoughts are with the families affected by this. So many of the firefighters were so young too, which is really sad, many of them not even in to their late 20s. 

I know that firefighters knows when entering the profession that it is dangerous, but nothing can prepare anyone for this sort of thing. Fires on this scale are unpredictable and completely uncontrollable. I hope that the families are getting all the support that they need, and that someone honors these men in the highest possible way.

There are currently investigations under way to figure out what could have caused these deaths, and there have been suggestions of wind gusts being investigated. 

Approximately 250 firefighters are still battling the fire, and around 18 other hotshot crews have been deployed.

I welcome all comments on this post, but if there is one negative comment on here about these men or the circumstances you will be reported and blocked for the foreseeable future from this site.

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