Wildfire Deaths Felt Locally

Posted at: 07/01/2013 6:37 PM
By: Brianna Long

(ABC 6 NEWS) -- It's with heavy hearts that nineteen firefighters are being remembered Monday, after being killed in an Arizona wildfire.

The elite crew, known as the Granite Mountain Hot Shots, were surrounded by the erratic blaze Sunday, and killed when their last ditch fire shelters didn't save them. Those 19 deaths are resonating with firefighters across the country, including here at home.

Caleb Feine is a Rochester firefighter at Station 4. Before that, not only did he fight wildfires, but he did it alongside the same group of heroes who lost their lives in this tragic incident.

"Wildland firefighting definitely had the most unknowns and the most scary moments that I've ever had in my life," said Feine.

He has battled all kinds of fires, but it was his work as part of an initial attack crew, fighting wildfires, that was most frightening.

"We were burning from a road back in to the main body of the fire, in hopes that we could kind of knock it down. The wind shifted, a lot like what happened to these gentlemen. The wind shifted and got behind us and more or less we were surrounded in a ring of fire.

Luckily Caleb and his crew got out of that situation safely. The same can not be said for the 19 members of the Hot Shots crew while they were battling that Arizona fire Sunday.

"It's tragic. Absolutely. Nobody wants to see anybody get hurt," said Feine.

Local firefighter trainers are hopeful that if any good can come our of this tragic event...

"Is we have to learn from incidents like this to prevent them in the future," said Brian Staska, with the fire training program at Riverland Community College.

Caleb says another thing that makes wildfires even more difficult is that instead of using water; crews have to fight fire with more fire.