The Rev. Dan Carlson, a friend in Salome, Ariz., happened to be in Prescott Sunday when the five-hour funeral cortège of 19 hearses and dozens of public safety vehicles brought the bodies of the Granite Mountain Hotshot firefighters back to Prescott from the medical examiner’s offices in Phoenix. He sent these two photos. Here is what he wrote:
“Yesterday we parked at the Phippen Museum grounds on Highway 89 near Prescott and witnessed this sad procession that traveled 125 miles from Phoenix to the (Yavapai County) Medical Examiner’s office in Prescott Valley, from which the families will gather their brave firefighters and prepare for funerals and burials. The entire town of Prescott has been taken to its knees, as has the entire state of Arizona and now, we realize, the entire nation.” A public memorial service will be held today in Prescott, with Vice President Joe Biden attending.
A firefighter once told me, “If you’re not afraid when you go in to fight a fire, you’re crazy.” Fear is a part of that job, they say. It is a little like the fear of God, along with the fear of extreme harm or death. You are in awe at fire’s power, and in terror at the same time that it will come after you.
The firefighter’s only real protection is preparation: Careful training, based on knowledge and best practices. The firefighter also needs good equipment. He or she must be physically fit. And finally, a firefighter must have boundless courage. Just like those 19 young men who died while trying to save the little town of Yarnell, a village not unlike Coarsegold, O’Neals, North Fork or Oakhurst.
In fact, only the quick work of our own mountain fire crews kept Yosemite Lakes Park in Coarsegold from going up in flames because of arson fires started there last month.
During a dry summer like this one, fire always lurks. Thank goodness for our firefighters who put themselves in harm’s way to keep us safe.
We salute them as we salute the Granite Mountain Hotshots, who likely will be memorialized in bronze by their Prescott neighbors, especially those at the Phippen Museum of Western Art, from where these pictures were taken.