Fire's wrath

7/3/2013

Tragedy brings sad reminder of need to exercise caution.

Tragedy brings sad reminder of need to exercise caution.

The danger of wildfires hit home when a number of local and area Boy Scouts recently were forced to evacuate their Colorado campsite.

They all escaped unharmed, thankfully, after being threatened by the East Peak fire in Colorado.

As frightening as that situation was, it also brought a blessing in everyone's safe return home.

And now, unfortunately, we have a more grim reminder of how such emergencies can spiral even further in the wrong direction, and with tragic results.

Families and friends were left to mourn the deaths of 19 firefighters killed Sunday when they were unable to escape a wildfire northwest of Phoenix.

The firefighters — all members of Arizona's elite Granite Mountain Hotshots — were overrun by flames near Yarnell, Ariz., in the deadliest tragedy to claim the lives of wildland firefighters in the nation since the Griffith Park wildfire killed 29 firefighters in 1933 in Los Angeles.

Lightning reportedly ignited a number of recent wildfires near Prescott, Ariz., including the one that killed the 19 members of the Hotshots firefighting crew.

While natural causes were to blame amid an ugly combination of dry, hot and windy weather, the deadly blaze also was cause to consider the need to be extra cautious in tinder-dry conditions — a situation well known in western Kansas.

Everyone in western Kansas, after all, should know it takes only one spark to ignite a serious grass fire that can destroy property and threaten lives.

Plus, it's always necessary to consider the plight of firefighters in such conditions. Not only is it miserable to suit up in heavy firefighting gear and battle a blaze in extreme heat, it's also downright dangerous — and potentially deadly.

The latest sad saga in the ongoing battle against wildfires brought a sobering reminder of the wrath of stifling heat and persistent drought, and how such conditions set up the kind of grave danger firefighters and others dedicated to protecting people and property face.

And, why everyone should be on alert, knowing one careless act could spark the kind of dire situation that puts still more emergency responders in harm's way.

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