Nineteen members of the same elite team were killed Sunday in central Arizona when a wind blown wildfire engulfed them.
LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) – The heartbreaking tragedy in Arizona proves just how dangerous wildfires can be.
Most firefighters are required to go through some wildland training. The Fairdale Fire Department is especially ready being so close to the Jefferson Memorial Forest.
It's an unthinkable loss that can even make the most experienced firefighters take a step back. "When I first heard that, it absolutely turned a knot in my stomach," said Chief Don Wittry, Fairdale Fire.
Nineteen members of the same elite team were killed Sunday in central Arizona when a wind blown wildfire engulfed them. Wittry understands the dangers of this type of blaze.
"It is the most hazardous fire fighting known to man," said Wittry.
In Fairdale, fire trucks are constantly carrying the necessary tools to combat wildfires. They work very close to the Jefferson Memorial Forest, so they know what we are seeing out west could happen here.
"It hasn't happened in that level in years, but it has happened in this area, yes," said Wittry.
Fighting wildfires is very different than structure fires, you don't use water, you wear cloth suits, and you carry all your necessary tools.
All firefighters go through this type of training, but not all departments are fully equipped like Fairdale. They showed us the aluminum survival tents the Arizona firefighters tried to use. "I mean that's your last resort, it's the last thing that you can do," said Cory Herman, Fairdale firefighter.
With a vapor barrier, the fire is suppose to go right over them. "We would cocoon ourselves, once we are in to try to limit any air space that we would have," said Herman.
But in Arizona, the wildfire proved too much. While it's a harsh reality, Herman said it doesn't make him second guess his career.
"We take the loss and we learn from it," said Herman. "I'm sorry to hear about everything that happened, but hopefully this will increase our training."
Chief Wittry wants to remind people, especially if you plan to do any camping or hiking this summer, to be extra careful with cigarettes, fireworks, and fire pits. He urges just the smallest flame can quickly spread out of control.
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