ON THIS DAY … 1994 and 2014

A little note and a little request — by Patrick Carnahan
 ~~ July 5, 2014
Still can’t believe we are only hours away from marking the 20-year anniversary of the fire on Storm King Mountain. I’m now 12 miles away from the parking lot I was in when Paul Harvey told us we’d just lost 14 firefighters on the mountain.
Patrick Carnahan photo
Patrick Carnahan photo

Our strike team had orders to go to that fire and we got stopped leaving camp and re-routed to another fire. We drove 3 times as long to fight another fire as it would’ve taken us to be on the South  Canyon Fire. We reached our assignment just as the flames were crossing the road into a remote community and we fought fire for the next 14 hours. Lost a wooden deck but no structures.

I remember everything in sight that night was on fire; it looked like hell, and there was no place else any of us would choose to be. Had about 4 hours of sleep and the first hot meal in 6 days when we got the news. Nobody really said anything at the time. We all understood we should’ve been on that mountain. Spent the next 5 days in a haze of smoke and flames before we were demobed. I have lost a couple of friends since then and many more I never had the opportunity to share the line with. Glad that the ignorance of youth was not wasted on me and I’m still here.

Asking that you all take a moment out of your day tomorrow and recognize those who never came off the line. Fire will always be a part of our reality and it will never be a job free of risk. When the next report hits the news about a wildland firefighter losing his or her life on a fire, please go here and make a difference:  The Wildland Firefighter Foundation.

Keep one foot in the black and stay safe out there. For those who have gone on, save me some line to work when the time comes.

And a revisit from a few years ago of one of Bill Gabbert’s best pieces: