Fellow firefighters embrace at a public memorial service for the 19 crew… (Mark Boster / Los Angeles…)
Re "Fire crew deaths a mystery," July 2
With a grieving heart I read about the 19 hotshot firefighters who perished Sunday in Arizona.
One summer 55 years ago, I was a member of the Los Padres hotshots stationed near Santa Barbara. We worked hard and had close calls. Hotshots had, and have, a reputation for getting to fires rapidly and serving as the first line of resistance against them.
Crews sent to work alongside us fighting large fires included U.S. Navy Seabees, prisoners and migrant workers from Mexico. None could keep up with the hotshots as we quickly cut, dug and scraped brush with hand tools to make fire lines that saved lives, structures and forests.
I salute the young warriors who died in battle with a dangerous force of nature, and offer condolences to their friends and loved ones.
Firefighters — 19 of them —died because our country's firefighting and forest management policy is flawed. The U.S. Forest Service has a history of valuing harvestable lumber over science.
More important, why do we risk lives to save property? Most wildfires are good for the environment. Many fire personnel will say privately that any fire that does not harm someone is a "good fire." We need to stop throwing young lives in front of wildfires just to save property that should not have been built in high-risk areas.
God bless the heroes who sacrificed their lives.
The fire disaster in Arizona that claimed the lives of 19 hotshot firefighters could have easily occurred in California. We all mourn the stunning loss of the elite crew to this treacherous fire.
We have lost too many firefighters in California and in other fire-prone states. It is high time for the federal government and the states to form a task force of experts and scientists to create a truly new way to fight fires almost entirely from the air, with personnel on the ground being relegated to mop-up operations instead of fire suppression.
We are able go to the moon and to Mars, so we should be able to find ways to suppress fires more quickly and in ways that avoid putting lives at risk.
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