Oregon has lost some of its heroes.
This was on the local news here tonight. The pilot and six of the firefighters were from tiny Merlin, Oregon, outside Grants Pass.
Wildland firefighters are justifiably adored here in the west -- I'm sure they're admired everywhere, but wildland fires are a particularly prevalent threat here, between the brush of Southern California and the timberlands of the Northwest. And when the sh**, or in this case thesparks, hit the fan, everyone who can lends a hand to fight the fires -- from local volunteers crews all the way up to National Guardsmen. But those who make a career out of facing the red devil -- particularly elite units like Hotshots, smokejumpers, and Helitack crews are out heroes. Fighting wildland fire is like fighting a war against an enemy that never surrenders, always fights to the death.
So when we lose one, it's a tragedy. But when we lose NINE? It's devastating -- even if you have never met them. And my heart goes out tonight especially to the family of the men lost and to the town of Merlin -- they knew these men personally, had social and business contact with them daily (and in a small town in the Northwest, business contact IS social contact). They didn't just lose heroes, they lost friends.
According to the local news, there was an incredibly heroic act after the crash -- there were four survivors, and eyewitnesses report that the third survivor went back into the burning helo to retrieve the fourth.
Keep everyone involved in your prayers. This is the first crash of a helicopter owned by this particular company in its entire history. The survivors, their associates who weren't involved, their friends, their families, and the people of the Northwest whom they served have all suffered a great loss.