Facing The Fire

Honoring the men and women who hold the line

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A grateful community hopes for the safety of more than 900 men and women fighting the Willow Fire to save homes, property and lives.

Behind the billowing columns of smoke and the fear created by the Willow Fire are 925 firefighters who have joined together to save homes and communities.

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Robert Smith, Helena, Montana Hot Shots

From the Indian fire crew of Gila River Reservation to the Hot Shots of Helena, Montana, these men and women are united in purpose.

"Fighting fires takes a partnership," said Karl Siderits, Forest Supervisor of the Tonto National Forest. "We could never do this alone."

Siderits said partnerships are needed between firefighting crews from throughout the country as well as emergency personnel right here at home.

"We have a fabulous team fighting this fire. We have partnerships with the community, fire chiefs, police chiefs, Gila County, and the state -- all focused on getting the job done," Siderits said.

Managing such an enormous effort takes experience said Jim Payne, Fire Information Officer. "We've probably got over 800 years of experience on this management team," Payne said.

"We've built a lot of years together, and there'll be more. This is not the first fire -- and it won't be the last," Siderits said.

Fire crews and management teams do their best to help fire-torn communities in more ways than one.

"We know the community will take some hits economically, but our presence here, and what we spend, should give some balance," said Forest Service Public Affairs Officer Paige Rockett.

Perhaps the greatest comfort that comes to Rim country residents is seeing a line of vehicles filled with yellow and green clad firefighters. As they make their way toward the smoke-filled horizon, it's reassuring to know they are here to help.

Payne, Rockett and Siderits all agree that it's the men and women who are willing to face the fire who are the real heroes.

We thank them all.

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