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© 2013 Kebba Buckley Button.  World Rights Reserved.


Grief, gratitude, first responders, firefighters

© Bretwalda | Dreamstime Stock Photos

On June 30th this year, a wildfire destroyed half the tiny town of Yarnell, Arizona.  It also killed 19 expert firefighters, called “Hotshots”.  One member of the team, the Lookout, survived, after warning the team the wind had shifted and himself following protocol to move to the next lookout position.  Rescuers found the 19 bodies, together with 19 fully deployed fireshields.  At this point, the fire was 0% contained.

The unincorporated town of Yarnell had around 649 residents as of the 2010 Census.  The town is northwest of Phoenix and southwest of Prescott.  This week, the entire town was evacuated due to raging fires.  The Granite Mountain Hotshots, a 20-member team out of the 92-member Prescott Fire Department, were a team specializing in fighting wildfires.  They had successfully fought back and contained a previous area wildfire.  This time, residents remember the Hotshots literally being right behind them as they fled their homes.  The Hotshots were fighting back the fire that was about to envelope, and did envelope, their homes.  The firefighters saved all the residents and half the buildings in Yarnell.  But no one could save the Granite Mountain Hotshots when a wall of fire overcame them.  Even the Pentagon dispatched special fire-fighting aircraft.

At this moment, on the evening of July 3rd, the fire is 45% contained.  The entire town of Yarnell is in emergency lodgings. The funeral has been held for the 19. Aside from shock and grief, admiration and gratitude were the overwhelming moods of the funeral day.  There were many hugs for the surviving Hotshot, the Lookout, himself a 3-year veteran firefighter.  Those saved by the Hotshots are asking, “How can you respond when someone dies for you?”

How can we respond to this much loss?  How can we thank those who died doing what they passionately wanted to do?  How could you ever thank someone who died while saving you?  We are left with our tears, our admiration, and our questions.



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