Real action heroes fight our wildfires
Published: Thursday, July 26th, 2012
You didn’t have to go far this past week to find some real action heroes. They could be found just south of Custer and southeast of Pringle in Custer County battling the Myrtle Fire that broke out Thursday, July 19, at 1:30 p.m. They came from everywhere to help protect lives and property of people they didn’t know and would probably never meet.
This same scene is repeated all around our country as young men and women travel to wherever a wild land fire has flared up and work on 20-member hand crews. Some, known as Smoke Jumpers, parachute into inaccessible hot spots and work day and night to stop the advance of a wildfire. Other fire department members from surrounding communities drive their tanker trucks great distances to try to protect homes and buildings from advancing wildfires.
All these people know the risks involved, but they don’t hesitate to attack the fire where needed or to fall back and regroup when necessary. Firefigher safety is always stressed. There is no forest, home or other structure that is worth the life of a firefighter. Forests will regenerate and homes can be rebuilt, but once lost, the life of a firefigher can never be replaced.
We have already seen the tragic loss of life this year when a North Carolina Air National Guard C-130 equipped with a fire retardant chemical unit went down July1 northeast of Edgemont killing four crew members and injuring two others while fighting the White Draw Fire. Last year, 23-year-old Trampus Haskvitz of Buffalo Gap lost his life and four others were injured in the Coal Canyon Fire north of Edgemont Aug. 11.
Fighting wild land fires in the air or on the ground is a dangerous business and is not for the faint of heart or the slow of foot. Winds can suddenly shift and egress routes may be cut off in a matter of seconds. In the case of the Myrtle Fire this past week, the fire was initially attacked at the north end which prevented its advance toward homes and buildings, and the City of Custer City. This was the initial 5 percent containment reported last Friday and was due mainly to local firefighter efforts.
Concern at first was that the wind would change direction and blow from the south to the north, reminiscent of the 2000 Jasper Fire that burned 83,508 acres. Thankfully, that didn’t happen. The Myrtle Fire should be 100 percent contained by Wednesday (today), but smoke may linger in the area for many days as hand crews work their way in from the perimeter.
There is no way we can thank these brave fighters of wild land fire enough for putting themselves in the path of danger and preventing the spread of fire to homes and other structures. We thank the Type I Team and local officials for their great support of these firefighting efforts. For the time being, we have dodged another bullet, but we must always be vigilant.
We can’t prevent lightning strikes, but we can all be careful while operating any power equipment outside. We have had rain, but we need a lot more to lessen the fire danger. We still have a long way to go before we are out of this fire season.
Thanks again, firefighters, for a great job. You are our real heroes!
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