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The Prescott Daily Courier | Prescott, Arizona

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8/15/2013 6:00:00 AM
Fuels-management crew back on at Prescott Fire Department
Les Stukenberg/The Daily CourierTad Bryant, Shon Do and Sean Balbos with the Prescott Fuels Management Crew help homeowners in the Prescott area by picking up and chipping their already cut and piled brush.
Les Stukenberg/The Daily Courier
Tad Bryant, Shon Do and Sean Balbos with the Prescott Fuels Management Crew help homeowners in the Prescott area by picking up and chipping their already cut and piled brush.
Cindy Barks
The Daily Courier

PRESCOTT - In the wake of the tragic loss of most of the elite Granite Mountain Hotshot crew on June 30, Prescott's fuels-management program had been largely on hold.

That changed earlier this month, when the Prescott Fire Department brought on three new workers to take up where the Hotshots left off on brush removal.

Prescott Fire Department Battalion Chief Ralph Lucas reported that the city had earlier advertised for the temporary positions, and had made conditional offers to several applicants - all prior to the late-June Yarnell Hill wildfire.

After the death of 19 members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots, however, the hiring process halted.

The fire department recent-ly restarted the process, Lucas said, and the three new workers came on board this past week.

Although not designated as firefighters, the new employees will carry out one of the crucial tasks of the Hotshots: removing the brush that can be so dangerous in wildfire situations.

"We want to let the citizens know that we have re-estab-lished the fuels management program," Lucas said Wed-nesday from Fire Station 7, the headquarters of the Granite Mountain Hotshot crew.

The new employees are currently in the training phase, and are not yet qualified as "sawyers," Lucas said. That means that they cannot take on large-scale brush- and tree-removal jobs. In the meantime, the small crew has been working to chip and dispose of the brush that homeowners have cut down from their property.

Lucas said the fire department opted to bring on the three new workers in part to take advantage of grant money that was available. "We have grant funds that are not being utilized," he said, noting that a $300,000 grant came to the city through the Prescott Area Wildland Urban Interface Commission (PAWUIC), which applied for and acquired the government money.

"That's what funds these people's positions," Lucas said of the grant money that previously went toward the salaries of the Hotshots.

Lucas and Prescott Fuels Management Supervisor Todd Rhines emphasized that the brush-removal work of the Hotshots over the years had dramatically improved fire safety in the Prescott area.

Rhines explained that the Hotshots had worked on the removal of brush year-around. "They did it 12 months of the year - if they weren't fighting fires," he said.

Over the past 12 years or so, Rhines said the city crew had treated about 3,500 acres of land. The efforts focused mostly on city open space, he said, as well as larger parcels of private land "that we thought needed (the treatment) because of what that property joined up to."

The results of the program have been obvious, Lucas said. "It works," he said, noting that firefighters across the country have seen raging fires "lay down" when coming up against treated areas.

The impacts of the Granite Mountain Hotshots' fuels-management efforts can be seen best from the air, Lucas said. For instance, a one-mile swath of treated area is visible along the Spars in south Prescott. "That's just one example," he said.

Rhines said the fire department would like to be back up to a fuels-management crew of eight to 10 members by spring 2014.

Local property owners interested in getting help from the fuels management program may call 777-1732.

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Reader Comments

Posted: Thursday, August 29, 2013
Article comment by: Take A Look

This is what they do, this is why they are proud, and this is why we should support them!!

Posted: Thursday, August 29, 2013
Article comment by: Honor Memory

How do you suppose those 19 MEN would like to be honored? By all the negative comments here, there, and everywhere??? OR by these 3 fine young men that are stepping up to the plate to pick up where they left off??? When you first started your careers did you start at the bottom like me OR were you one of the lucky ones that get the plate put on their laps and went right to the top? 95% of us had to start at the bottom just like these fine Men are and work our way up. If that means learning how to clear brush and PROPERLY dispose of it than so be it!!! I don't know that many people who want to go dig up bushes and brush in 110 degree heat!! AND just so you stone throwing morons know.... there is a TON, MAJOR TON, of physical training that goes on with these men and the ones who passed before them and the others that are sure to come!! They spend HOURS each day carrying weighted vests running up mountains, through rough terrain, for MILES and MILES to train their bodies!! This isn't typical, go to a gym and lift weights to get all buff and stuff!! Its physically demanding, hard core training and if ANY of you out there think you're up to the task... than by all means get in line, apply on the dotted line, and await your turn if its meant to be you'll get a call if its not ..... than zip your lips and move forward!!!

As with ANY loss of human life there are all kinds of hurdles to overcome!! Insurances are just one of them!! Unanswered questions another. Only one man has the answer to them all. I'm sorry, truly truly heartfelt sorry for ALL of the families and my heart bleeds for them. What we ALL need to do is pray for them, pray for yourselves if you are angry, pray this never happens again.... just pray! There are no stones to be thrown!!! These men died because a fire got out of hand. Mother nature turned around. Why can't the healing just begin instead of people talking smack all the time?? NO ONE is ever happy with answers when we lose someone we love. We can only learn from the things we see went wrong and go forward.
I know that those fine young 19 men wouldn't want to see the end of the Granite Mountain Hotshots. They would want to re-build. The town to heal. Families to come together and love one another. Not all these ill feelings, comments, and talk of no more Hotshots. I hope the government steps up and honors these families with the benefits they deserve. For those that were not "entitled" by way of their position titles, I pray they get some help as well. We can replace money.... we can't replace a life.

I am proud of you three young men, Shon, Sean, and Tad... and what you are preparing for and for what you WILL become. Be strong and know that the 19 angels up above are smiling down on you knowing you are picking up where they left off. They are proud of you as we ALL should be.

Ya'll take care out there. Be safe, be smart, and make good choices.

Posted: Wednesday, August 21, 2013
Article comment by: @ Wake Up Working Class

To "Wake up Working Class" - it looks like you are the one with no education. First of all, your question mark belongs at the end of the sentence. Secondly, I will have you know that these guys are doing this because it is a job of honor, commitment, skill, courage, dedication, and care for their community and fellow man...including you. They will look you in the eye and be happy to shake your hand, They will serve you and protect you. And just so you know, they all have college degrees. And I know for sure, that one of them at least, if not all of them, paid for their own college education. So there. Now, YOU have been educated. And you have just informed your community about how unintelligent you are, and what a narrow mind you have. I hope you are proud of yourself. And Shon, Tad, and Sean...your community thanks you for the work you are doing. At least, most of us do.

Posted: Tuesday, August 20, 2013
Article comment by: Desiree Steed

Awesome job Shon, Jesse would be proud of you!

Posted: Monday, August 19, 2013
Article comment by: Wake Up Working Class

Without much education what ? else would you have them do to make a buck . Don't sell them too short a few trees may have to be dropped . Then again might as well let the community service people do the same job for no $$$ . All the city would have to do is con the golf course out of their services .

Posted: Sunday, August 18, 2013
Article comment by: Elite? why

I don't understand why you have to be a firefighter or have special training to remove brush. Hire some landscapers or maybe have volunteers to remove brush. I mean, it isn't rocket science. Get a shovel and dig it up. How hard is that? Special, elite, highly trained, certified and needing full time benefits is ridiculous when talking about weeding some open space.

Posted: Sunday, August 18, 2013
Article comment by: Elite term used Generously

This term "elite" has a much different use than most- if elite means to work hard with a shovel digging out brush for 12-14 hours a day for $15/ hour, I understand. But I don't really see anything different with these guys in training, experience, or education. I think this term is used too flippantly because clearly these men were elite in only the fact that they were willing to work for such low wages at such a difficult job - not exactly the "elite" that they want you to believe.

Posted: Friday, August 16, 2013
Article comment by: Barbara Hinderleider

How terrible a loss to this entire country, the loss of 19 Hot Shots.....Please, let the investigation tell its story. In the meantime, consider this: There are 13 of the 19 families not receiving full benefits, Andy Tobin is trying to get this changed. Definitely, all the families should be treated with equal compensation when there is such a tragedy on the job. I pray our government makes this happen!

Posted: Friday, August 16, 2013
Article comment by: Grant Money Is Temporary

Let's be certain that all the t's are crossed and the i's dotted, so that these men know that they are "temporary", have no benefits and expect nothing more! Get their own life insurance and keep them off wildfires.

Grant money does not come from the city coffers. It also pays no benefits. Grants are temporary, go away and can dry up so no one should depend on ongoing employment.

Posted: Friday, August 16, 2013
Article comment by: Grrr @ Government Coverup

@Government Cover-up... I hate to be blunt, but you need to just shut the hell up! You need to learn how to read before flapping your gums.. Sorry I had to be so blunt!! There is no need to be asking so many questions... They will be answered soon enough.. It is people like you whom make me not want to read these comments anymore! That's All I Wanted To Say....

Posted: Friday, August 16, 2013
Article comment by: Government Cover-up

How can you NOT ask any questions?

You're saying this was just an accident so it was beyond anyone's control. That means the next time we have a wildfire, we can expect to have more firefighters die because it's beyond our control. That's absurd.

We owe it to these men, and the next men who go out there, to learn what went wrong and try to prevent it from happening in the future.

I've got to admit this new found, blind trust in your government is a refreshing change. Where was that attitude during the Moctezuma investigation??

Posted: Thursday, August 15, 2013
Article comment by: Shell e

In all fairness, please keep the negative comments away from this article, these men pictured and named here do not need to associated w/the issue that has started regarding the tragic event & fight for benefits. In this economy just be glad they now have jobs and are NOT replacing the hotshots. If there was any place to start fresh, it should be here w/these new employees---and if anything THANK THEM for committing to work for this city. Good luck guys!

Posted: Thursday, August 15, 2013
Article comment by: @government Cover up

Have you not been reading any of this comments in any of these articles??? How can you question any of these actions taken by these men??? Your not a wildland firefighter you have not the slightest clue of what to do how to do it or anything when it comes to this job. No one is going to your job questioning anything that happened at your job. This men took the right steps and acted appropriately to due what they are paid to do. Accidents happen ask your parents about that )

Posted: Thursday, August 15, 2013
Article comment by: What cover-up?

There's an ongoing investigation into all those questions, and the results are due to be released next month. In the meantime, just relax.

Posted: Thursday, August 15, 2013
Article comment by: Government Cover-up

What's the status of the investigation into these deaths?

Who directed that these men be placed in this position of peril? Why were the changing weather conditions disregarded? What exactly was the 20th crewman doing at the time?

Why is everyone so willing to accept this tragedy without asking any questions? Lots of questions with very few acceptable answers. Where are all those commenters who had concerns about the Moctezuma investigation, but are strangely silent in the wake of 19 dead firefighters?

Posted: Thursday, August 15, 2013
Article comment by: two faced

Seems like its OK to spend government money to clean up bushes---NOT OK to feed some inner city kid who needs the nourishment.

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