Our View: In Honor of Firemen

Posted: July 2, 2013

This week began with a tragic reminder of the sacrifices made by our first responders, and serves as a sad notice of how much we should appreciate the courage and devotion to duty of all of our fire, police, and rescue personnel in this and every community.

As the Associated Press reported, “winds blew an Arizona blaze out of control Sunday in a forest northwest of Phoenix, overtaking and killing 19 members of an elite fire crew in the deadliest wildfire involving firefighters in the U.S. for at least 30 years.”

This widespread fire started late last week after a lightning strike and had spread to some 2,000 acres by the end of the weekend. The brave heroes who lost their lives were known as “hotshot” firefighters. “Hot shot crews,” AP notes, “are elite firefighters who often hike for miles into the wilderness with chain saws and back packs filled with heavy gear to build lines of protection between people and fires.”

The fallen were members of the Prescott Fire Department, which is only one of a few cities in the United States to have a hot shot team. The group had recently worked other fires in both New Mexico and Arizona.

Hundreds of firefighters continued to battle the blaze Monday in the face of this unspeakable tragedy.

Public safety is too often taken for granted, and only grim news such as this or the events of 9/11 make most of us appreciate that these folks put themselves in harm’s way for us each day.

Every year, we carry dozens of stories of the excellent work by all of our local first responders, as countless lives and property are quietly saved as these fine folks go about their daily duties. Whether professional or volunteer, they always know that tragedy could be just around the corner.

In memory of the fallen in Arizona and across the country, and in tribute to the many that serve us locally each day, we conclude with a version of the Fireman’s Prayer that is likely found in countless firehouses across the country:

When I am called to duty, God

Whenever flames may rage,

Give me the strength to save some life

Whatever be its age.

Help me to embrace a little child

Before it’s too late,

Or some older person

from the horror of that fate.

Enable me to be alert

And hear the weakest shout,

And quickly and efficiently

to put the fire out.

I want to fill my calling

and give the best in me,

To guard my neighbor

And protect his property.

And if according to Your will

I have to lose my life,

Please bless with Your protecting hand

My children and my wife.

May the fallen rest in peace.