As memorials begin for the 19 firefighters who died at the Yarnell Hill wildfire in Arizona, fire stations in the Miami Valley mourn the loss of fallen brothers in uniform they never knew.
They come from different stations, but they all say the same thing: the fire fighting community is tight knit even across state boundaries.
“It was a terrible tragedy. It gets all of our attention and is reminiscent of larger incidents,” said Asst. Dayton Fire Chief Michael Caudill, recalling 9/11, the only single event to claim more firefighter lives. “It brings everybody back to reality on how dangerous the job is.”
Caudill said the station plans to send letters of condolences to the firefighters’ families.
“It’s a calling for most of these guys rather than a job, so it affects us pretty badly,” said Michael Duchesne of the Ohio State Fire Marshal’s office. “When things like this happen, people circle the wagons and appreciate what we have.”
Beavercreek Fire Battalion Chief Nathan Hiester said that because the fire fighter community is well-connected nationwide, deadly fires grab their attention even from far-off states.
“We express our condolences to the families for their loss,” he said.
Ohio crews have not been dispatched to the deadly fire, but Chief Mike Ludwick, regional coordinator for the Ohio Fire Chiefs’ Association Emergency Response System, said fire crews can get “a lot of resources going in a relatively short amount of time” to respond to a national crisis like when Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005.
When a wildfire in another state overwhelmes a dispatch, the Ohio Division of Forestry stands ready with type 6 engines and 20-person crews to provide backup, as they have almost every summer since 1986, according to Wildfire Prevention Specialist Aaron Kloss. Eileen Corson at the Ohio Department of Natural Resources said the district requesting help covers the cost for the assisting station’s deployment.
The 200 Ohio firefighters with the national certification to fight wildfires stay sharp if they get the call to action.
“Wildfire fighting is a different beast; we really feel for those guys. Everybody gets closer for a while because we think about how those events could affect us if it happened here,” said Robert Lotz, public information officer of Dayton Firefighters Local 136. “We never know when we could go out for that last one.”