My commute from my Boston apartment to NFPA headquarters in Quincy, Mass., via public transit gives me ample time to peruse the massive array of magazines that weigh down my work bag. A feature story that recently had me hooked was a detailed look at the Tahoe Hotshots, a fearless group of California wilderness firefighters, and their tactics for battling last year's Mill Fire in Tahema County.
While reading the article, I was reminded of Arizona's Yarnell Hill Fire and its tragic outcome a few months ago. The incident was a devastating loss for the fire service; nineteen firefighters were killed during the June fire, which NFPA deemed the deadliest incident for firefighters since the September 11 terrorist attacks. (NFPA also attended the memorial service.)
The details in the feature, which appeared in the July issue Outside Magazine, help paint a vivid picture of a job not for the faint of heart. There are tales of chainsaw mishaps, heat exhaustion, and quick decisions that place these firefighters in the thick of a raging inferno and into extremely precarious situations. At the end of the day, or whenever the Tahoe crew is able to reflect on their work, it's evident that they are fueled by a sense of pride that trascends the promise of a paycheck.
This newfound insight into the life of a wildland firefighter has only deepened my admiration for the 19 brave men who lost their lives--and the number of other firefighters who have battled similar blazes across the country this year. Such deeds should never go unrecognized.