Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Heavy Hearts in Arizona

by Heather

I'm writing this from the Maricopa County Superior Court in Phoenix, Arizona, as I wait to see if I'll be picked for jury duty. As I tried to get to the parking garage for jurors earlier today, I encountered road closures around the courthouse and the parking structure which is next to the county medical examiner's offices.  Nineteen vans carrying the nineteen fallen firefighters who had given their lives yesterday fighting the Yarnell Hill Fire were being escorted to this location.
As I walked to the courthouse, I saw the somber faces of firefighters and other first responders awaiting the arrival of their fallen brethren.  Media vans with television cameras and newspaper columnists were capturing the moment with pictures and words while helicopters hovered overhead, monitoring the progress of the procession. As I made my way to the steps of the courthouse, I thought of the memories I have of Yarnell Hill.
The firetrucks' ladders formed an arch over the procession of vans. The upside-down American flag signals distress.*
Yarnell Hill is a well-known locale among Arizonan motorcyclists and it's one of our favorite rides out of the Valley of the Sun. We pass through the historic town of Wickenburg, often stopping there for breakfast, and then continue up and around the winding roads of Yarnell Hill, always stopping for coffee at the Yarnell Hill summit restaurant .
The winding road up Yarnell Hill
The Yarnell Hill Restaurant, where we stop for coffee, is still standing.
From Yarnell Hill, it's a  challenging ride through heavily forested, mountainous switchback lanes into the frontier town of Prescott.  Prescott is a small picturesque hamlet with turn-of-the-century saloons and shops along the famed Whiskey Row which fronts the old-fashioned town square.The nineteen hotshot firefighters who lost their lives were all from the Granite Mountain Interagency Hotshot Crew of Prescott, Arizona. Only one from the crew of twenty survived the devastation by being in another location at the time of the tragedy. 
As of Monday night, the fire is 0% contained with unpredictable winds adding to the difficulty of fighting this fire.
An estimated 200 homes in Yarnell have been destroyed.
The road up Yarnell Hill will never be the same.
In memory of the nineteen...

We join the small community of Prescott in grieving the loss of these brave first responders -- young men who were sons, brothers, husbands, fathers, friends, and colleagues.

Title 36, U.S.C., Chapter 10
As amended by P.L. 344, 94th Congress
Approved July 7, 1976

§ 176. Respect for flag: No disrespect should be shown to the flag of the United States of America; the flag should not be dipped to any person or thing. Regimental colors, State flags, and organization or institutional flags are to be dipped as a mark of honor.
(a) The flag should never be displayed with the union down, except as a signal of dire distress in instances of extreme danger to life or property.


  1. Everyone is so sad but also so proud of these young men. I saw one of their wives this morning on the Today Show and she was remarkable -- a young woman left with four children to raise on her own. I'm hoping to get involved in some way to help out these young families as well as the people who are now homeless.