June 2014


Remembering the Yarnell Hill Fire – Not AZ Strong

Best practices aren’t always best. The first blog post on a website is important. It’s supposed to set the tone and a foundation for your niche and those you want to reach. Instead, I honored something more important. My fingers and heavy heart are with those hurting today from the Yarnell Hill Fire. The lives of 19 brave firefighters were taken exactly one year ago.

As for best practices, the Granite Mountain Hotshots knew them all. They were trendsetters. Kudos for being the first Type 1 Elite Crew in the country sponsored by a municipal fire department. Those guys were real pros. No question. They didn’t just work at their craft of saving lives and land. They worked hard to earn and honor their elite status.

I covered enough fires as a TV journalist to keep my nearby dry cleaner happy. I know firefighters are trained experts, worthy of respect for their knowledge and courage. They’re like all of our heroes. We expect them to win every single time.

Sadly, The Yarnell Hill Fire Won

The City of Prescott Fire Department is well aware of the dangers of fire. The hotshots were well aware of the dangers, too. Plus, they proudly carried the intense heat of having to prove themselves daily. But something went terribly wrong one year ago in the Yarnell Hill Fire. Many hearts were broken near and far from the heart of the small town of Yarnell, Arizona.

The “Best of the Best” were caught in the worst imaginable situation…a whole team of elite firefighters getting overrun in a canyon by the enemy they were trained to defeat, or at least escape. I’m sorry for the sense of loss today being experienced by all involved. I’m sorry for the loss of every friend and family member. I’m sorry for the loss, whether it was by blood or by bond.

I vividly remember that Sunday one year ago. I got a call from the ABC News Bureau in Los Angeles requesting me to cover the story. I had prior commitments and had to decline. Covering events like that are unpredictable. You don’t know where you’re going to end up and how long you’re going to be needed.

I wound up doing some work on the Yarnell Hill Fire story in the days thereafter. It really pushed my buttons. It brought up my memories of being entrenched for ABC News covering the September 11th tragedies in New York. Sadly, my emotional baggage from that nightmare still doesn’t fit in the overhead compartment. In addition, what also crushed me being “Daddy” to my son, was hearing 7 of the firefighters killed in the Yarnell Hill Fire were fathers, while another 3 were soon to be. That burn still stings.

On this day, June 30, 2014, I’m excited this new website is now online. Best practices would say the first post should be all about your site. Hopefully, the Internet Gods will forgive me. Like the Granite Mountain Hotshots, I want to earn and honor the name AZ STRONG. Best practices commence tomorrow. Today, the Yarnell Hill Fire has a more important anniversary in Arizona worth remembering.

The Granite Mountain Hotshots

by Thomas Baldrick  Google +

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