Local Firefighters Mourning Loss Of Arizona Crews

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LABADIE, MO (KTVI)-- Firefighters in the St. Louis area receive special training and are frequently dispatched to head west to fight wild land fires.  A group of firefighters at the Boles Fire Protection District are mourning the loss of the 19 killed in Arizona.

Captain Justin Hill has fought wild fires in Texas. "Grieve for them, their families, their town that lost 19 firefighters. It`s a shame," he said.

He and assistant fire chief Byron Long has special equipment for wild fire fights, including a fire shelter. It looks like a giant piece of heavy duty aluminum foil.  It`s a last resort, when flames surround them. They get underneath but it only provides a few minutes of protection while the flames pass over and move on.  If firefighters use it too early they could be killed by smoke inhalation.  If they use it too late  they won`t have time to deploy the shelter. Those killed in Arizona were members of a hotshot crew.

Assistant Chief Byron Long, has fought dozens wild fires said, "They are the echelon of sorts of the fire crews out there to be a hotshot any of those individuals had to have at least two years of wild land experience just to be invited to apply."

Despite the horrible tragedy, the two men plan to keep on fighting wild land blazes.  Long said, "People are just so appreciative of you going out there to help them out it makes you feel good."   Hill added, "Always got to rely on your training always should learn from these type of tragedies."