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…