MADISONVILLE, Ky. (7/1/13) – While it's a long way from Madisonville to Arizona, local firefighters will put to use lessons learned from the final moments of the 19 firefighters that lost their lives Sunday near Phoenix.
Known as the Granite Mountain Hotshots, the firefighting crew was engulfed by a raging wildfire that has consumed nearly 9,000 acres, according to the Arizona State Forestry Division.
Madisonville Fire Department (MFD) Assistant Chief Ray Wyatt said each local firefighter is grieving the loss of their fellow firefighters in their own ways. As a group, they will read and study reports from the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health regarding what is being called Arizona's most deadly wildfire.
"NIOSH will investigate and determine what happened," said Wyatt. "Then all fire departments will get those reports and try to learn from them if we can."
While wildfires are not as common in Kentucky as in the western states, Wyatt said being prepared for them is a wise move.
"It's one of the things we always do," he said. "We read about all the LODDs (line of duty deaths) and try to learn something from it."
Wyatt said 600 to 700 firefighters die in the U.S. each year. Some of those deaths are not line of duty deaths and some are from health issues such as a firefighter experiencing a cardiac arrest while battling a blaze.
Locally, most of the calls for MFD are to structure fires, but field and grass fires are common in the summer months, he said.
"Last week, some of the county departments worked one fire where 30 of those big, round bales of hay burned," said Wyatt. "We do train on wild land fires and we try to stay updated on it."
Four fire units battled a grassland fire on Frank Cox Road Sunday, June 30 bringing the fire under control after about an hour.
Meanwhile, the central Arizona fire that is believed to have started with a lightning strike Friday, June 28, is still being fought. Forecasts call for temperatures for as high as 102 in the area, according to a story Monday by CNN. Concerns include not only the high temperatures but also thunderstorms with wind gusts. Wind shifts are believed to be the cause of the blaze that backlashed on the Granite Mountain Hotshots.
In a statement posted on Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer's official page, she expressed her heartfelt sentiments.
"It may be days or longer before an investigation reveals how this tragedy occurred, but the essence we already know in our hearts - fighting fires is dangerous work," Brewer said. "The risk is well known to the brave men and women who don their gear and do battle against forest and flame. When a tragedy like this strikes, all we can do is offer our eternal gratitude to our fallen, and prayers for the families and friends left behind. God bless them all."
Rita Dukes Smith
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