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Friday, October 31, 2014

A Pilgrimage to the Fallen...



At Storm King Mountain Fire Memorial.

Halloween seemed a fitting day to visit the Wildland firefighters who made the ultimate sacrifice while combating this lightning caused inferno. October 31st is more than Trick or Treating or dressing up in a costume; it's about remembering the deceased too. 

I made my way along an established trail through a steep, windswept landscape. Sporadic stands of scrubby oaks adorned the hillsides. The whole scene was punctuated by narrow gullies plunging toward the Colorado River below. 

On a minor ridgeline I turned right to the site where twelve heroes met their fate. The vertical distance between life and death was approximately 80 feet. For Hot Shot Scott Blecha it was a mere 20 feet to salvation. With the rate of fire spread estimated to be 35'/second the distance may as well been measured in light years. There was no escape from this kill zone when the fire turned into a pyre for the victims. 

Two Helitack crewmembers succumbed in a nearby rocky ravine well below the ridgeline. 

Please take a moment to read the poem placed on a plaque near the memorial. I couldn't help myself, I wept on that mountain.

Mann Gulch Fire: Montana. 1949. 13 Fatalities.
Storm King Mountain Fire: Colorado. 1994. 14 Fatalities.
Yarnell Hill Fire: Arizona. 2013. 19 Fatalities.

We can only hope history will one day stop repeating itself.

Good night on Halloween.


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