Is Your Life Fireproof?
ILLUS: The following is an article written by Al Henkel, of NBC News.
In October of 2007, 12 orange County Fire Authority firefighters were forced to deploy their shelters at the Santiago Fire in Southern California. They were chasing a spot fire that was headed towards a small mountain community, dragging hose through waist high brush. The winds were whipping, and small fire grew very quickly. They were trapped on a ridge in sight of a highway, and in sight of a Los Angeles Times photographer who shot an amazing series of photographs. Photographer Karen Tapia-Anderson told us that she thought she was watching firefighters die right in front of her lens. "My heart was breaking for those men. Through my shroud and my goggles I can honestly say I began to cry myself because I felt like they weren't going to make it. And I began to pray for those guys. I did. I prayed for those guys that they would be ok, I really did"
We met 5 of the 12 at their deployment site. In the typical firefighter manner, there were no tears, no wistful words, just a matter-of-fact explanation of what happened. Firefighter Brett Cowdell found the depression he scooped in the dirt to find clean air. "I deployed my shelter, put my face to the ground right here and jumped inside. We're already huffing and puffing cause we climbed the hills as fast as we could get up here I'm in the ground and I've got protection on my mouth, but it is burning as it's coming in."
They were lying down on the ground that a fire had just passed over inside a foil pup tent, trapping all that heat inside. Estimates of the ground temperature: between 300 and 500 degrees. Imagine lying down inside your oven.
All 12 walked down the hill. All 12 were checked out by paramedics. All 12 wanted to go right back out on the line. You see, the fire was still moving towards people and houses. All of them wanted to keep doing their jobs.
When I was a young rep ...
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