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Local Wildland Firefighter Reacts To Arizona Tragedy

Local Wildland Firefighter Reacts To Arizona Tragedy

By Kimberly Foley. CREATED Jul 1, 2013

Lincoln, NE -- On Sunday, 19 firefighters were killed fighting a fire in Yarnell, AZ.

On Monday, a local firefighter who has fought wildfires around the country is talking about the tragedy in Arizona. 
"It was tough to see," said firefighter Casey McCoy. "19 in one shot. I mean its tough enough for us up here. It's going to be really hard for those guys down there."
McCoy is the wildland fire training manager at the Nebraska Forest Service.
He has fought wildfires in 10 states.
"I know when I see another firefighter out there in the woods, he may not drive the same color truck as I do, he may wear a different color helmet and he may have a different logo on his shirt, but I know that person has seen and done a lot of the same things I have done. You feel a tie to them."
McCoy has worked with hotshot crews like Granite Mountain. He said they're some of the most important guys to have on the ground.
"They have only two speeds," said McCoy. "It's going and stopping. That's all they do. They walk the same pace all day, for 14 hours a day doing the same thing. They're really a huge resource."
Hotshot crews are also in the most danger because they work the fire line.
McCoy said crews are trained for everything including an escape route and safety zones.
If all fails, they're taught to use their emergency fire shelters.
McCoy said it's rare, but deploying them is something the Granite Mountain Crew was forced to do. 
"At that point, honestly, your fight or flight reaction takes over then," he said. "I've heard people describe it as it's down to a very primal level. It's survival at that point."
To give you an idea of how rare it is to have fire shelters deployed, McCoy said that last year 500,000 acres burned in wildfires across Nebraska and not one firefighter had to use one.