Tag Archives: firefighters

Heroes are answering the call again

Here we go yet again.

Fires explode across tens of thousands of acres, driven great distances by hurricane-force winds. Homes are incinerated. People’s lives are put in extreme jeopardy. Prized possessions vanish in the extreme heat.

Who answers the call to help? The firefighters, police, emergency medical personnel. That’s who.

It’s happening yet again in southern California. Those dreaded Santa Ana winds are devastating a region and imperiling the lives of millions of Americans.

It should go without saying, but these men and women are the truest heroes imaginable. They run into the firestorm. They fight these unspeakable forces from the air and on the ground. They expose themselves to heat, flame, smoke and utter exhaustion.

And then we have neighbors helping neighbors. They, too, deserve our prayers and good wishes as they all — every one of them — battle to save what they can against forces far stronger than anything they can ever hope to control.

This has been a tough year for so many Americans. The Texas Gulf Coast and Florida are still battling to recover from the savagery of hurricane wind and rain. Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands residents cannot yet get full power and potable water restored after enduring their own misery from yet another storm.

The Santa Rosa fires up north from the inferno that is engulfing southern California at this moment brought their own measure of agony to beleaguered residents and the responders who rushed to their aid.

We should salute them all. We should pray for their safety. We should hope for as speedy a recovery as is humanly possible.

Thank you, heroes. All of you make the rest of us so proud.

Firefighters showered with love, good wishes

GRASS VALLEY, Calif. — This makeshift sign spoke volumes to my wife and me as we arrived in this small town in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada.

They’re fighting a fire here. It’s not as devastating and tragic as the Santa Rosa fire that is blazing in California’s famed Wine Country near the Pacific Coast. It’s still pretty big.

Residents of Grass Valley and Nevada County have expressed their thanks to the men and women who have come here from far away to battle the fire near Grass Valley.

Children have written the messages. They have offered their own love and blessings and asked for blessings from God. They have urged the firefighters to stay safe to enable a safe return to their own families.

We’ve offered our own expressions of gratitude for what these men and women do. They sign on to protect and to serve. They answer the call. They rush toward the danger, not away from it.

None of this has been lost on the people they are protecting and serving, as my wife and I noticed upon our arrival at an RV park at the Nevada County Fairgrounds, which have become a staging area for roughly 1,000 firefighters who’ve come here to fight Mother Nature’s red-hot wrath.

I’ve seen these men and women do their duty up close back home in the Texas Panhandle, where we’ve lived for more than two decades. Wildfires have ravaged our landscape over the years, too. They have destroyed homes, killed livestock and, yes, taken some human lives too. The firefighters have braved dastardly wind that often sweeps across the High Plains. I salute them every chance I get.

I am doing so again as my wife and I watch these young firefighters prepare to enter the field of battle against the flames.

I am absolutely certain they appreciate the community’s expression of gratitude displayed on that chain-link fence that surrounds their base camp. They are in our thoughts and prayers.

These men and women are doing heroic work

GRASS VALLEY, Calif. — The nation’s eyes, ears and hearts are dialed in to the tragedy that’s unfolding a bit northwest of here, in Santa Rosa.

Fire has destroyed thousands of homes and killed dozens of people. The death toll is expected to increase. Firefighters have poured in from all over the continent to assist in that terrible fire.

My wife, Toby the Puppy and I came to Grass Valley on vacation. En route to this marvelous place we learned of another fire. We half-expected to drive to a site full of smoke; we thought we might have to purchase surgical masks to keep from inhaling all that smoke and dust.

We arrived to find the sky relatively clear, unlike what we saw in Chowchilla about 180 miles south of here. Then we pulled into our Nevada County Fairgrounds RV park and found quite a sight: dozens of firefighters roaming around; rows of firefighting equipment; tents full of supplies (food, clothing, blankets, etc.); one-person tents pitched everywhere.

They’re fighting these fires fiercely. They seem to have caught a break with the weather. The winds were calm upon our arrival, although we heard from several folks that the previous day brought choking smoke to the area.

We visited with a young man who appears to be a senior firefighting officer. He guesses about 1,000 firefighters are on hand. He said they are coming in “from all over. The Midwest is the farthest away.” Jail inmates are fighting the fires. They’ve got CCC crews on the task, too.

He estimated that the fire has burned about 14,000 acres.

It isn’t yet contained, he said.

What’s more, the efforts of these men and women are not going unnoticed by the community. They have made signs on the chain-link fence bordering the fairgrounds. They have earned the community’s gratitude and wishes for God’s blessings to all of them.

On our way back to our RV site, we encountered four young firefighters: three men and a woman. “Where you from?” I asked. “Northern Idaho,” came the response from one of the men.

“We just want to thank you for all you do,” my wife said. “That means everything to us,” he responded. “We sure don’t do this for the pay,” he joked.

These young heroes are here apparently for the long haul, or as long as it takes.

God bless all the firefighters scattered throughout this fire-ravaged state.

Fire, smoke everywhere … everywhere!

CHOWCHILLA, Calif. — We’ve heard plenty about the Santa Rosa fires that have killed more than a dozen people and destroyed thousands of homes.

We ventured north to this town about 40 miles north of Fresno expecting to perhaps see a hint of trouble farther along the highway. We found something quite different: smoke choking everything here, although not to the tragedy that is unfolding in California’s famed wine country.

We learned upon arrival that an almond processing plant caught fire and firefighters are battling that blaze. Smoke is blanketing region all around Chowchilla. Indeed, we began noticing it in Bakersfield, 100-plus south of here.

Oh, but the Santa Rosa saga is being seen all around us here. We ran into some firefighters as we ate burgers and fries at a local drive-in. I asked if they were “fighting the fire that’s causing all the smoke around us.” Oh, no, a young man told us. He was heading up north to fight the Santa Rosa fire.

“Bless … your … heart,” I responded. “God bless you and be safe out there.” He smiled and said he surely would do that.

And so California is fighting the elements.

Indeed, we are heading toward Grass Valley in the morning. Our RV park has turned into a “fire camp” as firefighters are staging there to battle yet another set of blazes near that picturesque community. We have checked in with our RV camp hosts to ask them if the park would be safe, that it won’t be “overrun by fire sweeping through the place.” She couldn’t assure us of anything like that.

That all said, we’re going there anyway. She did suggest that firefighters are making progress in that particular battle against the flames.

If only the firefighters battling the Santa Rosa fire could offer even a hint of hope that they’ve turned the corner.

It feels considerably more frightening to us as we venture in this part of the country. We have heard about the fire, winced at news of the tragedy.

We aren’t anywhere near the center of the inferno. However, even seeing the outskirts of its effect is chilling to the max.

God bless those men and women who are thrusting themselves into harm’s way.

And then came the mist …

I awoke this morning, walked outside and noticed something I am quite certain has been accepted as a major blessing throughout the Texas Panhandle.

The air was full of mist. The humidity was high. It’s been like that all day. The blessing, of course, has been delivered to firefighters, other first responders, farmers and ranchers who’ve been battling their hearts out against fires that have swept across the Panhandle in recent days.

They have destroyed hundreds of thousands of acres of land; I heard these latest blazes are the third worst wildfire event in Texas history.

As the wind calmed down over the past 48 hours or so, firefighters were able to get the fires contained, but not before they did horrific damage to property and livestock and took the precious lives of four individuals who were seeking to stave off the flames.

I thought of them this morning as my day got started. I also am quite certain I was far from alone in sending good thoughts, prayers and perhaps even some positive karma in the direction of those who’ve been battling so valiantly against the sinister forces that brought so much destruction, damage and heartbreak to our region.

The moisture isn’t arriving in huge amounts across the High Plains. It seems to be enough to quell the fire and to give the brave men and women who’ve been battling it a welcome respite.

Is it divine intervention? Absolutely!

Thank you, firefighters; you are our heroes

I suppose one could trace Americans’ love affair with emergency responders back to around the 9/11 attacks.

You remember the horror, the heartache — and the heroism!

I damn sure remember all of it.

The heroes were the firefighters and police officers who ran into burning skyscrapers in New York City, or into the Pentagon to rescue individuals who had been trapped by fire and smoke or perhaps paralyzed by the terror that been thrust upon them.

In that spirit I want to offer a word of gratitude and utmost respect and admiration to some emergency responders who at this very moment are fighting fires all along our sprawling landscape on the High Plains of Texas.

The wind is howling and is fanning flames across many acres of grassland. The firefighters are answering the call to battle the flames — and the relentless wind.

What’s more, many of those brave men and women are volunteers. They have day jobs. They do other things for pay, but they volunteer their time as firefighters because of their desire to serve the public.

Sure, we say it on occasion. We express our thanks and our appreciation to our friends and tell them how we stand in awe of those who risk their lives to protect us from nature’s wrath.

Do we tell the men and women directly how much we admire them for the work they do? No. Of course we don’t. I don’t.

I’m doing so here in this blog. I hope the word gets out. These individuals are heroes in every sense of an often-overused and misused word.

I also plan to tell the next firefighter I see at the grocery store stocking up on grub for his or her colleagues at the fire station that very thing.

About to declare war on misuse of word ‘hero’

I’ve just about had it up to here with those who keep using the “h-word” improperly.

I saw a tweet this afternoon about the death of pro wrestler Dusty Rhodes. It referred to him as a “blue-collar hero.”

Blue-collar hero? Yep. That’s what it said.

I’m on the verge of declaring war on the misuse of that word.

My war declaration, though, requires me to come up with an alternative word.

In the Dusty Rhodes case, what could we use to replace the term “hero” as it was used in that tweet? Blue-collar celebrity? Blue-collar icon? Blue-collar star?

The words “icon” and “star” perhaps overstate Rhodes’s status. But what the heck, this isn’t about Dusty Rhodes. It’s about the constant misuse of a term that should be used sparingly — and only to describe individuals deserving of the term.

A friend of mine noted that Caitlyn Jenner — the woman formerly known as Bruce Jenner — is being touted as a hero. I haven’t heard that term attached to Caitlyn Jenner, although it wouldn’t surprise me in the least.

Heroes are fighting men and women who put themselves in harm’s way in defense of the country; they are firefighters who rush into burning buildings to save people’s lives; they are police officers who risk their lives arresting violent criminals.

They aren’t athletes. Or entertainers. Or reality-TV celebrities.

Can we stop misusing that word? Please?

Heroes wear firefighter uniforms

Popular culture is fond of bandying about the word “hero.”

We ascribe that title to athletes and to movie stars who play heroic figures on the big screen.

One of our communities caught fire in recent days. Fritch, in Hutchinson County, has been battling wildfires. You want a definition of a real hero? Look to the people who plunge into the fire to battle it face to face.

We know all this, of course. We know about the heroism our firefighters exhibit all the time. The same can be said of police officers, who answer calls that should be “routine,” but too often prove to be anything but.

Today, let’s single out the firefighters for hero recognition.

I ran into one of them just yesterday. He was mowing a lawn two doors west of where my wife and I live. I walked over just to visit with him and to get a price on lawn mowing services. He said he’s been cutting grass part time for 22 years. His real job? He’s an Amarillo firefighter stationed at the River Road station just north of Thompson Park.

The fellow has had his hands full in recent days, battling the Fritch fire along with firefighters from other departments all across the northern Panhandle.

It’s good to understand, too, that those rural firefighters — the folks who work in our small farming and ranching communities — are volunteers who don’t get paid to suit up and plunge into the inferno.

The 9/11 tragedy nearly 13 years ago educated many Americans about the heroism our firefighters exhibit. Remember the stories of those individuals running upstairs into the Twin Towers to rescue those who were trapped?

Does that define a hero? You bet it does.

The fire season has arrived a bit early this year. Our firefighters are going have a busy time of it, particularly if the region remains as dry as it’s been.

They will put their lives on the line as they fight to protect people from the flames. They are heroes who should make us proud.

Godspeed, y’all.