One Year


One year ago today we lost 19 members of the Granite Mountain IHC in Yarnell, AZ.  One year ago today I was traveling home from the Silver fire on the Gila NF in NM after a 21-day roll with Garden Valley Helitack.  We got back to the base around noon, unloaded gear from the trucks, did paperwork, and headed home for our two days off.  As I started to get caught up on domestic things that evening, the rumors started to trickle in – there’d been some kind of bad event in Arizona.  Strange Facebook status updates, hurried news releases, and terrible numbers in the media – first 8, then 20, 16, 18, and finally 19.

As the details slowly emerged from the smoke and haze, the depth of the tragedy sank in.  For the first time in my fire career, my heart was broken.  I’d never worked a fire with Granite Mountain, never met them in a fire camp, never even seen their buggies on the highways and interstates like I do with so many other crews across the country.  I knew of them by reputation, as that ‘Shot crew from the Prescott FD.  Yet still, the impact of their loss hit me like nothing I’d experienced before.  This isn’t supposed to happen, especially to a ‘Shot crew.  And yet happen it did.

I was reminded in the days and weeks after the tragedy why I love fire people.  The way the fire community rallied together was incredible, and I’m proud and humbled to say I’m a member of such a strange and compassionate social tribe.

I don’t have a lot to say about Yarnell.  Much has been said, and will continue to be said for years and decades to come.  Today let’s be mindful of the loss of 19 young firefighters, and their families, as we go about our normal routines.

To quote Norman Maclean, “In a journey of compassion what we have ultimately as our guide is whatever understanding we may have gained along the way of ourselves and others, chiefly those close to us, so close to us that we have lived daily in their sufferings.  From here on, then, in the blinding smoke it is no longer a “seeing world” but a “feeling world” – the pain of others and our compassion for them.”

Stay strong, remember those who came before, and spread compassion like wildfire.

Until next time…

About Justin Vernon

I'm an amateur photographer, wanna-be writer, tech aficionado, and a classic introvert who values quiet time as much as I do the mountains and people of the Pacific Northwest and Northern Rockies.
This entry was posted in Garden Valley, Leadership, Personal, Wildland Fire. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to One Year

  1. bdmillerfs says:

    Nice tribute … I think I’m in a similar place today

  2. A says:

    Hi Justin, I decided to contact you after reading your post re: Rok 14 on POTN (where I don’t have a membership). Hope you don’t mind my intrusion on your blog. I’m a (new) owner of Rok 14 and I’d like to share a few observations with you.

    I got my lens from B&H – same as you. 1st copy came in a couple of weeks ago. I took a few quick snaps wide open and wasn’t impressed – low contrast, lots of CA. Not good, since the lens was supposed to be used for astro photography. Then, I had same thoughts as you (maybe it’s me?). I tested the lens more thoroughly using some charts – same results as before. Unacceptably soft wide open – even in the center; the whole image was somewhat mushy. The difference between f2.8 and f4 was huge – way sharper/better contrast. Unfortunately, I couldn’t live with that, since I needed it to be sharp wide open – decided to eat up the shipping costs (from Canada) and return it for exchange. The 2nd copy was much better – she’s a keeper! Much crisper and sharper, no mushiness. Well worth the wait, the BS and few additional bucks.

    Anyways, what I’m trying to tell you, first make sure it’s not the operator error – take some time to shoot in good light (your images look under exposed), using live view, on tripod etc. Make sure you focus properly – the distance scale is often borked and the AF dot not reliable. If after all that, still doesn’t look good – don’t let anybody talk you into keeping that lens – you won’t be happy, period. Either return it or roll the dice and try exchanging it (the QC is very poor). Who knows, maybe you got my returned 1st copy? Too bad I didn’t write down the serial number so we could compare…

    If you decide to exchange it (the customer service was great) and end up with the good copy, you’ll know right away – you’ll love the way your pictures look! Good luck and all the best.

    PS. Feel free to delete this off-topic comment ASAP – I’d emailed you or pm’d if I could, I couldn’t find the way to do it.

    • No worries… Both shots were just real quick ones to see what differences there were between aperture settings. I plan on getting the tripod out and maybe getting some better photos tomorrow… First impressions weren’t good though. Thanks for the input!

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