UPDATE: Firefighter Deaths in Arizona Felt by Local Hot Shots, Engine 57 Family

Granite Mountain Interagency Hotshot Crew from Facebook.
Granite Mountain Interagency Hotshot Crew from Facebook.
The deaths of 19 firefighters in Arizona on Sunday are felt by local hot shot crews, others in the firefighting community, and anyone who remembers the crew of USFS Engine 57, who died fighting the 2006 Esperanza Fire.

"My heart goes out to their families," said Vivan Najera, aunt of Daniel Hoover-Najera, who was 20 years old when he was fatally injured with four crew members of Engine 57 above Cabazon on Oct. 26, 2006.

"I thought of them right away when I saw the news last night," Najera told Banning-Beaumont Patch. "It brings back memories. . . . If there's any way to reach out to them, I want to.

"We're the ones that go on, and my heart truly goes out to all of them," Najera said. "Prayer and reaching out to God is the number one thing."

Those who died June 30 fighting the Yarnell Hill Fire northwest of Phoenix were part of the Granite Mountain Interagency Hotshot Crew, sponsored by the Prescott Fire Department.

"Our prayers go out to their families," said Capt. Uriel Ortega of the Del Rosa Hot Shots, who are part of the same network of highly-trained firefighters. "The hotshot family and fire community are here to support them any way we can."

The Del Rosa Hot Shots are based in north San Bernardino. Ortega was an acting incident commander on the Hathaway Fire still smoldering northeast of Banning. Del Rosa and Mill Creek Hot Shots in Mentone are often assigned to local fires, and they take assignments on major incidents across the West.

"There's a hundred some crews nationally, and some of us had opportunity to work with that crew," Ortega said Monday morning in a phone interview. "Some of us worked with them on the Station Fire, some of us were in Flagstaff more recently."

Sunday in Arizona was one of the first major firefighter fatality incidents since the Esperanza Fire.

The arson-set blaze became a wind-driven firestorm early that day and claimed the lives of Capt. Mark Loutzenhiser, 43, Pablo Cerda, 24, Jason Robert McKay, 27, Jess Edward McLean, 27, and Hoover-Najera, who were set up to protect a vacant home on Gorgonio View, between Cabazon and Twin Pines.

"That was a bad time locally for us," Ortega said. "This is always a difficult time for everyone in the firefighting community."

The incident Sunday was also the deadliest for wildland firefighters since 1933, when at least 25 died trying to fight a blaze in Griffith Park, the Los Angeles Times reported.
beaumontdave July 02, 2013 at 12:40 AM
What can you possibly say that isn't going to be wholly inadequate to the loss of nineteen healthy, young, professionals with their lives ahead of them. You just ache with the emptiness and loss that those who care and love these kids will now carry for the rest of their lives. Wishing peace to those who are hurting is my thought to share in a world full of ongoing tragedy that breeds numbness and for some lost souls, indifference


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