Tag Archives: firefighters

Heroes accomplishing their mission

I cannot say this enough, so I’ll repeat myself gladly.

The heroes who answered the call in California can all but declare they have accomplished their mission: The deadly Camp Fire is now 100 percent contained.

Those heroes happen to be the firefighters who risked their lives trying to save the lives and property of others. They battled the deadliest fire in state history. They report now that they have surrounded the blaze and have been able to contain it. Yes, it’s still burning, but now the firefighters can continue their work to extinguish the blaze.

Texas firefighters hustled out west to help their California colleagues. Indeed, firefighters from several states rushed to aid the beleaguered heroes in California. This is what they do. They rush courageously into the flames, working day and night to quell the inferno. This longtime Texas resident is proud of the contributions made by my fellow Texans to aid those stricken by this horrifying event.

They are heroes. Each of them perform heroic deeds. I am so proud of them and the service they deliver to those who need it in the most desperate conditions imaginable.

Roughly 14,000 homes have gone up in flames. Many thousands of people are going to rebuild their lives, either where their homes were incinerated or somewhere else. Our prayers go out to them.

The Camp Fire, to be sure, is just one of several fires burning in California. This one is the largest. It needs to be quelled for keeps, but the heroes have at least cleared a major hurdle by surrounding the fire. It’s contained.

Thank you so much for the heroism you have displayed.

Heroes never seek recognition

I love writing about heroes. Indeed, I believe heroes and the deeds the perform are my favorite topics in writing this blog.

Frankly, I don’t know why that’s the case. It might be a product of my boyhood fascination with them. Perhaps that fascination never has left me.

I just posted a blog item a few minutes ago about the firefighters doing battle with the flames in California. They are heroes of the highest order. So are police officers. So are the medical personnel who respond first when disaster strikes.

Yes, I count the military men and women who answer the call to defend the nation as heroes.

Heroes all have a few things in common.

First and foremost is that they don’t consider themselves to be heroes. To a person, they shy away from the title of “hero.” They’re just doing their job. They’re in the “wrong place at the right time,” or maybe it’s the “right place at the wrong time.”

They don’t boast about their exploits, any more than rich people brag about their wealth, or smart people boast about their intelligence. Hmm … am I sticking my finger in anyone’s eye here? I suppose so . . . but I digress.

Heroes don’t look for opportunities to display their heroic tendencies. These opportunities are thrust upon them. A warrior who walks among his or her comrades on patrol becomes a hero when enemy soldiers open fire on them and that warrior responds to the horror that erupts all over them.

The firefighter who hears the bell at the fire house heads toward an unknown “enemy.” A police officer pulls over a traffic violator never knowing with any degree of certainty how that traffic stop will conclude, which is why I never use the term “routine traffic stop” when discussing these incidents. I did one time early in my career as a reporter and a local sheriff schooled me about a fundamental truth known to cops everywhere: “There’s no such thing as a ‘routine traffic stop.'”

Cops are heroes. So are firefighters. Same with paramedics. So are the military personnel who defend us against those who seek to harm us.

I love writing about them all. Doing so fills me with pride that I can honor them in this small way.

Beautiful view … if only we could see it

MISSOULA, Mont. — Our drive today from West Yellowstone to Missoula was spectacular — or at least that’s what I’ll presume.

We couldn’t see much of what we understand is breathtaking mountain splendor.

Our 260-mile trek north and west was uneventful in important ways. We had no delays. Our truck performed perfectly. Our fifth wheel recreational vehicle followed along just as it is designed to do.

The obstruction to our sight-seeing while driving comes from smoke. Those wildfires that keep breaking out throughout the western United States are causing considerable havoc to those of us who want to enjoy the splendor the Almighty provides.

Do not misunderstand me. I am not going to bitch and moan about it Why? My inconvenience pales in comparison to the struggle being fought in those mountains, valleys and meadows by the firefighters who are thrusting themselves into harm’s way.

Our latest retirement trek will continue west before we head back home in a few days. I keep hearing about the smoke all along the way. I want it to clear out for totally selfish reasons, but also because — like all Americans — I want the firefighters to return home safely. Their children and spouses need them.

I won’t go too deeply into the climate change debate with this blog post. I’ll only re-state what I’ve believed for a good while: The weather is changing and we can expect more of these fires and more than likely they’ll arrive with increasing ferocity.

Millions more tourists just like my wife and me will be denied the chance to take in the view we know is out there … somewhere.

Giving thanks once more for local heroes

I cannot say this enough, so forgive me if you have heard this before.

Our firefighters and other first responders continue to amaze me. I am grateful beyond measure for the work they do, the service they provide and the protection they provide to the community they swear to protect.

Some wildfires erupted west of Amarillo last night. The wind was merciless, relentless and unforgiving. The people who ran straight toward the potential danger kicked into high-gear action immediately.

Amarillo and Potter County fire crews were able to contain the blazes in fairly quick fashion.

It occurs to me that these folks are pretty damn good at this firefighting stuff. No, they’re real good at it.

We toss the “hero” term around a bit too loosely. We hang the label on athletes. We’ve actually called actors over many years “heroes” because they portray them on film or TV. I prefer the term “role model” to describe athletes’ public standing. I’ll leave that discussion at that.

As for actual heroes, they work for us, for you and me. They are public servants. Some of them don’t even get paid for their heroism. They are the volunteer firefighters who often serve in the rural communities surrounding Amarillo. They have day jobs but choose to respond when the fire alarm goes off — at which time they rush into harm’s way.

They do this to protect us. They shield us from the dangers that fire presents. These days that danger is heightened by the dual factors of high wind and lack of moisture. I cannot even remember the last time it rained in our community.

One more time — and it won’t be the final time — I want to extend a public thank you to the men and women who answer the call on our behalf. You are heroes. We all appreciate you.

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.