EYEWITNESS LOCAL NEWSFirefighters Respond To Arizona Tragedy
from Eyewitness News Online
Reported by: Kera Mashek
Web Producer: Kera Mashek
Reported: Jul. 1, 2013 9:01 PM EDT
Updated: Sep. 3, 2013 4:30 PM EDT
St. Albans , Kanawha County , West Virginia
A massive, deadly wildfire continues to rage out of control near prescott, Arizona. Nineteen firefighters were killed battling that fire Sunday. They were members of an elite squad called the "Granite Mountain Hot Shots".
With the extreme heat and winds fanning the flames, the firefighters simply had nowhere to run, and their safety equipment, including specialized fire tents, offered little help.
Firefighters around the country, including here in West Virginia, are now sending prayers and support to Arizona.
Captain Dwight Pettry's set to retire soon from the Saint Albans Fire Department after almost three decades of service. For 20 of those years, he's not only answered calls in the local community, he's also responded to wildfires out west. So he knows first-hand fires like the one burning right now in Arizona --are brutal.
"It's all day, walking and digging. And out there, it takes several days to put out a fire, even if it's very small, only a few acres. Things are so dry, it's burning underground," said Pettry.
Pettry says there are always new safety precautions coming out for crews who chose to be certified in wild-lands firefighting, Including new versions of specialized fire tents that were put into use a few years ago. The tents can withstand 500 degree heat, but fires can easily reach a thousand degrees or more. So sometimes, not even the best equipment can stop the inevitable...
"Of course all your uniforms are Nomex, which is similar to the bunker coats we wear here, but they're much thinner because obviously you don't want to wear those all day in the heat. Then we carry the shelter. It's a last ditch effort thing, which as we know from out there yesterday, it doesn't always protect you," Pettry said.
His heart breaks for fire departments and families of the 19 fallen members of the Granite Mountain Hot Shots--some of the most highly trained firefighters anywhere.
"It's just tough, really tough," said Pettry.
But he knows the firefighting family around the country will be lending support to help Arizona communities heal, while helping firefighters on the front lines continue to do their jobs, until the flames in Yarnell go out.
In order to help fight wildfires, firefighters in West Virginia have to be what's called "red card certified" through the state division of forestry or the US Forest Service.
So far--we've not learned of any fire crews from the Mountain State who are being dispatched fight the Arizona wildfire, but that call could come any time and firefighters here say they are ready and willing to help.
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