Rolling Stone covers wildfire

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We’re not sure if it made the cover of Rolling Stone, but the August 15, 2013 issue has an interesting article titled “The Great Burning — How Wildfires Are Threatening the West: Terrifying blazes are the new normal in the West, where a mix of climate change and Tea Party politics has put an entire region at risk.”

The piece written by free-lancer Osha Gray Davidson of Phoenix, uses the tragic Yarnell Hill Fire as an anchor, but primarily covers the current state of wildfire management and suppression. He mentions several examples of how politicians are using that fire and the deaths of 19 members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots as leverage to criticize existing federal forest management and to introduce legislation to increase logging on national forests, in spite of the fact that the Yarnell Hill Fire was not on federal land and there were virtually no trees in the area.

Mr. Davidson ends the article by writing about the Granite Mountain Hotshots:

“Granite Mountain was the only hotshot crew in the nation that was attached to a city fire department. [Rick Heron, part of another Arizona crew that worked on the Yarnell Hill fire], says that may be why the Granite Mountain Hotshots had a unique reputation. “They were the most family-oriented crew I’ve ever met,” he says. Perhaps, Heron speculates, those very ties caused them to continue battling the blaze when bad weather was moving in. “If you’re talking about houses that belong to your neighbors or cousins or to your Uncle Jimmy,” he says, “it makes it harder to leave.”

If that is what happened, then the saddest irony of the tragedy on Yarnell Hill may be that the Granite Mountain Hotshots lived their lives and met their deaths out of a sense of communal responsibility – the very opposite of the culture that has gotten us into such a fatal situation in the first place. It seems reasonable to wonder: If America behaved more like the Granite Mountain crew, perhaps our fire problem wouldn’t be so intractable.”


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Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.

3 thoughts on “Rolling Stone covers wildfire”

  1. I think the Rolling Stone article raises some important questions about the culture and orientation of the crew that may have played a part in decisions made that day, not only by the crew superintendent but by his superiors as well. I have wondered about these cultural questions myself. The official investigative reports on this fire will certainly be important and necessary, and I hope that the investigators take their time and get it right. However, I know that official reports do not always get it right for various reasons. Sometimes they may identify specific tactical errors or communication problems but fail to address the greater systemic problems from which they arose. Sometimes political considerations get in the way of the truth or the desire to avoid liability affects the conclusions. There is a lot of information out there about this fire and I think it is useful for firefighters, as well as all other citizens, to study and learn about the Yarnell Hill Fire, so that we will not be so completely reliant on the official reports to provide us with the truth about this tragedy. Knowledge is power.

  2. While I agree we don’t have an official report of the fire and all the details, I think it is reasonable to note the Granite Mountain Hotshots demonstrated by their lives a willingness to put community before personal wishes. And suggesting the country would be better off if more of us did the same, (hopefully not at paying the ultimate price) is a logical conclusion. May they rest in peace and their families find peace as well.

  3. please. let’s wait until we know what happened on the Yarnell fire before we conclude what the crews motivation may have been, why they were trapped or postulate that Granite Mtn had more family values or community interest than any other Ty-1 crew that may have been in the same situation. Rest in Peace.


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