EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

World/National News

July 9, 2013

There was nothing romantic about being a Hotshot firefighter

PRESCOTT, Ariz. (AP) — In his book, “Young Men and Fire,” Norman Maclean attempted to convey what a crew experiences in the chaos of a mountain firestorm.

“It is really not possible to see the center of a blowup because the smoke only occasionally lifts,” the late Montana author wrote, “and when it does all that can be seen are pieces, pieces of death flying around looking for you — burning cones, branches circling on wings, a log in flight without a propeller.”

In American culture, the firefighter is almost a mythic being. Immortalized in movies such as “Hellfighters,” ‘‘Backdraft” and “Ladder 49,” they do things that most people could never conceive of doing. They are, as we see time and again, the first ones into a disaster and the last ones out.

It is no different in the wildland firefighting community, where men and women armed with little more than axes, shovels and chain saws face mountainsides engulfed in flames and, somehow, hope to bring that force of nature to heel.

“You ask yourself: Why are these people willing to put their lives on the line? For people they don’t even know?” retired teacher Sharon Owsley asked last week as she stood on the courthouse square in this town north of Phoenix. “Why do they even do this kind of work that’s so highly dangerous? Every day it might not be. But then there’s that one day that you may not come home.”

For 19 members of Prescott’s Granite Mountain Hotshots, that day came June 30, when they were overrun while battling a blaze on a ridge in nearby Yarnell. On Tuesday, firefighters from across the nation will join with the men’s families, Vice President Joe Biden and other dignitaries to honor the men.

The elite Hotshot community is a small one — there are some 110 crews of 20 nationwide, the vast majority of them west of the Mississippi River. So veteran wildland firefighter Patrick Moore was not surprised to see the names of several friends on the list of the dead.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Latest News
World/National News

Latest U.S. News
Raw: Woman Who Faced Death Over Faith in N.H. Russell Simmons, LL Cool J Visit Youth at Jail Raw: Obama Gets Hug From Special Olympian US, UN Announce Deal on Gaza Cease-Fire Despite Moratorium, Detroit Water Worries Remain Faith Leaders Arrested at DC Deportation Protest Family Dispute Cripples Northeast Grocery Chain CDC Warns Travelers Amid Ebola Outbreak US Stocks Plunge, Wiping Out July's Gains Demoted Worker Shoots CEO, Kills Self Obama Slams Republicans Over Lawsuit Raw: 2 Hurt in NY Trench Collapse House Leaders Trade Blame for Inaction Cantor Warns of Instability, Terror in Farewell Florida Panther Rebound Upsets Ranchers Small Plane Crash in San Diego Parking Lot Dangerous Bacteria Kills One in Florida Visitors Feel Part of the Pack at Wolf Preserve 3 People Killed, Deputies Wounded in NC Shootout Suing Obama: GOP-led House Gives the Go-ahead
Latest World News
Raw: Rescuers at Taiwan Explosion Scene US, UN Announce Deal on Gaza Cease-Fire US Warns Against Traveling to Ebola-hit Areas Raw: Deadly Taiwan Gas Leak Explosion Netanyahu Vows to Destroy Hamas Tunnels Malaysian PM: Stop Fighting in Ukraine Workers Dig for Survivors After India Landslide Fighting Blocks Access to Ukraine Crash Site Raw: Smoke, Explosions Fill Gaza Skyline Today in History for July 31st Raw: 16 Killed in Gaza Market Strike Raw: Guinea Rap Concert Stampede Kills 33+ Raw: Deadly Landslide Hits Indian Village Graphic Video: 15 Killed at Gaza UN School Russia Counts Cost of New US, EU Sanctions Britain Testing Driverless Cars on Roadways Raw: Floodwaters Ravage Villages in Romania Raw: Thousands Flocking to German Crop Circle Raw: Otters Enjoy Water Slides at Japan Zoo Raw: Amphibious Landing Practice in Hawaii
Photos of the Week