Fighting Wildfires Safer Five Years after Four Local Firefighters Die in 30 Mile Fire
YAKIMA, Wa - The 5th anniversary of the death of four local firefighters in the '30 Mile Fire' is on Monday.
The four deaths in the '30 Mile Fire' prompted the US Forest Service to take a long hard look at how to make fighting wildfires safer for firefighters on the front lines.
The four firefighters who lost their lives have been gone for five years now, but Randy Shepard says Tom Craven, Devin Weaver, Jessica Johnson and Karen Fitzpatrick will never be forgotten.
"It's something we live with everyday," says Shepard, District Ranger for the Naches Ranger District.
Shepard wears a pin on his collar to remember the sacrifice they made. He says the best way to honor them is to make every effort to avoid another tragedy.
"We're trying to learn from that and provide a safer environment for firefighters as they do their job," says Shepard.
Shepard says they have not completely overhauled the way they fight wildfires. What they have done is put more emphasis on the things firefighters need to do to protect themselves.
"It all comes down to being aware... be safe then accomplish the mission," he says.
They have not made one or two big changes, just little things. Each firefighter at the Naches Ranger District now carries around an 'Incident Pocket Response Guide.'
"It gives a quick reference on all sorts of things like how to analyze a fire."
The four firefighters died because the fire shelters they were in couldn't withstand the heat from a wildfire. Shepard says the shelters have been improved, but now firefighters are taught the shelter is a last resort and not 100% reliable.
"You're best survival is to be in a safe place, not a piece of equipment."