This week I attended a regularly scheduled chiefs meeting at the local dispatch center. This was the first time I had seen Prescott Chief Fraijo since the incident and he gave a recap of sorts of what that day was like in terms of how he found out, what some of the work involved will be in investigating what happened and he talked about the dollars involved that have been raised for the families.
It was obviously riveting but I believe we were told things in confidence so I can’t go into detail but the series of phone calls involved on June 30th sounded crushing. Research/investigating will go on for a while (the local paper said 60 days but I think it could be longer) which will be difficult for everyone.
One thing I may not have mentioned was the extent to which there were trucks here from all over the state during the immediate aftermath of the incident to backfill shifts for Prescott Fire so they could start the grieving process. The support for this was amazing and Chief Fraijo expressed his gratitude (that one is probably safe to share).
The dollars being raised for the families is looking to be very substantial. In case no one thought of it, I offered to Chief Fraijo to provide free financial education to any of the families who might be interested. This is not about landing clients–think more financial literacy. I don’t expect that I will be asked to be involved in this way but I have offered.
One thing I learned at this meeting was that the loss is felt beyond who you might think. Without giving inappropriate detail the dispatchers were very much effected as well for the extent to which they worked with the GM crew. There are obviously other people beyond the dispatchers that you also wouldn’t necessarily think of and I may come to learn some of their stories too.
From the small world department my wife knows the people who live closest to where the Hotshots were lost. These folks have fostered for United Animal Friends for a long time and there has been a nonstop parade of people walking by their house to the site. I don’t know these people but you can imagine how difficult it is for them. Their place has been referred to in the news as the nearby compound and whether that is correct or not I do know it is their dream home. What do they do now? That is a rhetorical question.
One thing I did not realize until just this weekend of a personal nature is the number of people my wife and I have met over the years who knew of my involvement with with Walker Fire (Joellyn was on the department for three or four seasons too) who asked/made sure we were not out there. About ten years ago Joellyn and I went to the elementary school where her little sister was teaching and gave a presentation to the students about wildfires and how they are fought.
Joellyn’s sister has since moved to another school but even the other teachers who were there for our presentation, again this was ten years ago, called her sister to make sure it wasn’t us. I was blown away by that.
We all touch other lives in ways that we probably don’t realize and this little story is a prime example. There must be a life lesson in there somewhere.
The picture is a statue depicting a wildland firefighter that used to be at the National Wildland Coordinating Group (NWGC) office in Boise. As I understand it, the statue will now remain in Prescott.
Also of a personal note as a self-awareness issue is the extent to which as profoundly sad as this is it is also historic on a scale that I have never been close to before. I have obviously made firefighting a big part of my life so to have something so big be so close is a surreal life experience even with my limited involvement as mentioned previously.
Thank you for reading this.