I live in Arizona and, for my taste, my state's been in the news far too often for all the wrong reasons. Yesterday's reason was by far the worst. Nineteen firemen lost their lives fighting a fire on Yarnell Hill. Yarnell is a sleepy little ranching town in the Arizona mountains where people keep cabins so they can escape the summer heat.
A lightening burst, promising rainfall that never came, ignited the fire. It started out small, then suddenly exploded and killed eighteen highly skilled Granite Mountain Hotshots, plus a nineteenth man from a different unit. It's too early to know how these men got trapped and what caused the fire to explode almost instantaneously, so all we're left with now is the grief of losing so many of our bravest all at once. (Click here to read the full story ).
This is the largest loss of life during a wildland fire in the United States since twenty-five fighters lost their lives in 1933 battling a fire in Los Angeles' Griffith Park.
I live next to a fire station. Not my choice. I'd live at the location for nearly ten years. Before the fire station was erected I told people I lived on a park, which I did. Now I live on the edge of a concrete driveway that fronts a fire station. Along with many of my neighbors, I fought the station and lost, and felt it was forced on me, which it was. I couldn't do anything about it, which gave me two choices — accept it or resent it. I chose to resent it. Over the past three years, I must defend myself by saying that I've rarely given them a hard time, not as often wanted to, so they're probably not as troubled by my resentment as I've been. Because today I am ashamed.
The loss of these nineteen firefighters in Yarnell made me realize that my firefighter neighbors face similar dangers every day on the job. They stay mobilized and alert because fire waits for no one, and they go out dressed in horribly heavy gear in the hundred plus-plus degree Arizona heat. They are heroes even when they aren't fighting fire, and are worthy of my respect and appreciation. So, I repeat, I feel ashamed. It's time I bought those guys some donuts and apologized.
Meanwhile, my heart goes out to the families and friends of these fallen heroes. They gave more than should have ever been expected of them.