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Prescott Valley Tribune | Prescott Valley, Arizona

home : opinions : editorials August 19, 2014

9/11/2013 10:56:00 AM
Fire School's tribute is meaningful in practical way
Courtesy the Daily Courier

Of all the tributes, all the honors, all the remembrances since that dreadful Sunday evening in late June, Thursday's announcement in Mesa may be the most heartwarming.

The Arizona State Fire School named the Granite Mountain Hotshots - the entire 20-man crew based out of the Prescott Fire Department - as its 20th annual Firefighter of the Year. The Fire School started in 1973 with a goal to improve the safety of Arizona's firefighters and communities through quality training.

Awards included more than $10,000 worth of donated prizes to the Prescott Fire Department, plus more than $110,000 worth of new gear for the Yarnell Fire Department. "This is overwhelming for us," Yarnell Fire Chief Jim Koile said. "We never had wildland equipment before."

More than that, though, it was old-school recognition from peers dedicated to service and safety. "It's intended to convey to our firefighters that the public is paying attention... and we appreciate all the risks you take to protect our lives and homes," Daniel Matlick, president of United Fire Equipment Co. in Tucson said of the annual award which, heretofore, has gone largely unnoticed outside of the fire community until this year's emotional tribute.

There is no limit to recognizing all first responders, particularly the Granite Mountain Hotshots - the only municipal hotshot team in the U.S. From helping clear out hazardous fuels on thousands of residents' properties to educating the public in and around the 1.25-million acre Prescott National Forest - the jewel of Yavapai County - which ranges from Sonoran Desert terrain to chaparral, piñon pine and juniper with the characteristic elevation changes, up to and including the majestic Ponderosa pine views that dominate its landscape.

Those who care for our wildlands are as humbling as the environment itself.

Which is what touched each and every one of us this past June 30, and continues to serve as both a healing process and a celebration of all that we admire and appreciate about the Hotshots and other stewards of our special land and safety.

Going on five weeks since the tragedy, fundraisers and collective efforts on behalf of the Hotshots' families as well as the rebuilding efforts in Yarnell continue to press on with great success.

For some, maybe the time has come to say "enough" or to "move on" in light of donations already made to the causes. They are free to do so, although it's unseemly to criticize others who don't share that opinion and continue to sponsor and donate to collective fundraisers on their own.

The Arizona State Fire School has seen to it to help donate equipment to both the Prescott and Yarnell fire departments, not to mention to raise awareness on the importance of safety to the citizens, fire crews and land all around us.

There's never enough of that.

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