Vice President Joe Biden spoke yesterday at the heartbreaking memorial service for 19 firefighters that died while battling a ferocious blaze on June 30th in Arizona. The 19 fallen men were part of an elite group of male firefighters called the Granite Mountain Hotshots from the Prescott Fire Department. Along with thousands of mourners, the vice president was joined by other elected officials including Gov. Jan Brewer and the state’s U.S. Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake.
Twenty men rushed to the fire that consumed thousands of acres northwest of Phoenix. Only one man survived when the fire changed directions. The 19 individuals took cover as a last resort lying down under fire shelters-blankets that are meant to shield against heat and flames. The sole survivor, Brendan McDonough, was the crew’s lookout away from the burn zone who reportedly radioed the crew about the change of fire direction.
There are approximately 180 elite fire units in the United States that fight wildfire up close and clear out the brush that would otherwise intensify the blaze, according to an article on yesterday’s CNN.com.
Although Americans do not all live in areas like the ones near Phoenix, it would be remiss if we did not take a brief opportunity to espouse the importance of home fire prevention and safety tips, as recommended by the U.S. Fire Administration:
1) Have at least one working smoke alarm in your home.
2) Prevent electrical fires by not overloading extension cords or circuits
3) Use appliances wisely by following the manufacturer’s instructions. Unplug appliances when not in use.
4) Keep portable heaters at least three feet away from anything combustable. Use fire screens in the fire places and have your chimney cleaned annually.
5) Consider purchasing an affordable home fire safety sprinkler system.
6) Plan an escape route out of your home. Tell everyone to stay low to the ground when evacuating and do not open a door that feels hot. Pick a place for everyone to meet outside of the house and, after you escape, call for help.
7) Teach children under five and even older that fire is dangerous. Teach them that lighters and matches are not toys.
8) Be mindful of the elderly around you. Approximately 1,000 older Americans die in fires each year because they are more vulnerable and less able to respond quickly.