Not since September 11, 2001 has the American firefighting community gotten news this grave. Nineteen firemen battling a wildfire outside Yarnell, Arizona were killed this weekend. They were members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots from Prescott, Arizona, a group of highly specialized firemen specially trained to battle wildfire conditions.
Reports from the scene indicate the firemen were attempting to deploy tents made to protect them from the fire but were unable to do so in time because of the speed of the fast-moving blaze.
The loss to the firefighting community is unspeakable. The loss to America, devastating. The loss to their families ... unimaginable.
As the news sweeps the nation, we're reminded of just what it is that people like the Hotshots do every day.
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They put their lives on the line for others. They run into dangerous situations to protect homes, businesses, lives.
And sometimes, they pay the ultimate price for it.
Today the City of Prescott, Arizona faces the loss of 19 members of a 20-person crew, an offshoot of its city fire department. Each member left behind family members, people like Juliann Ashcroft, who will go to bed tonight knowing that her husband, a father to her four children, will never return.
Meanwhile, although the town of Yarnell, Arizona lost 200-some buildings, its 700 residents are all safe, safe because of the Hotshots and the 200-some other firefighters who descended on the area to fight a blaze sparked by lightning late last week.
These firefighters died for that.
They died for something.
Their sacrifice is heartbreaking. And beautiful.
Our hearts go out to their families. We hope that today they take comfort in knowing that the firefighters they loved are the truest kind of heroes.
Do you know a firefighter? What do they say makes them run toward danger for the sake of others?
Image via Bureau of Land Management/Flickr