OLYMPIA - As Washington State firefighters prepare for what is predicted to be a more dangerous than normal fire season, the Arizona tragedy weighs heavily on their minds.
Nineteen members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots, based in Prescott, Ariz., were killed Sunday when a windblown wildfire overcame them north of Phoenix.
“Pretty much made me physically ill,” said Tom Wojnar, a mechanic who prepares Department of Natural Resources (DNR) helicopters to fight this summer’s fires.
“It’s one of those things we never have to talk about but it’s a reality we see way too much,” said Albert Kassel, A Department of Natural Resources (DNR) fire spokesman.
The deaths bring back horrible memories of the 2001 30-Mile Fire near Winthrop, Wash. Four firefighters died in that fire. They, like those in Arizona, tried to climb into their personal fire shelters. It’s a last ditch effort that is a firefighter’s last chance for survival. Ten firefighters in the 30-Mile Fire survived in their shelters.
Kassel said the shelter is a place no firefighter wants to go but must be prepared for.
DNR officials have already banned open burning on state protected lands, except for in approved campfire pits in state campgrounds.