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Final Word: Thank you, firefighters, for all you do

Thanks, firefighters.

Thursday, those who were evacuated from Oak Creek Canyon due to last week’s fast growing Slide Fire will get to go back to their homes.

Most of those who were evacuated from Kachina Village and Forest Highlands south of Flagstaff were only out of their homes for part of a day, but those closest to the fire have been gone for more than a week.

The Slide Fire, started by a cigarette butt, has burned more than 21,000 acres.

And when it started, it didn’t look good for Flagstaff. At one point, the fire jumped SR89A and burned for a few hours before crews were able to put it out.

The size of the fire and the speed with which it spread were scary for all of us in the Valley who love the town of Flagstaff.

Thankfully, it was no match for the firefighters.

More than 1,200 firefighters showed up to fight the Slide Fire.

More than 15 different hotshot crews showed up, and for more than a week, they have been heroically fighting that fire that our own Jim Cross called a “beast.”

And for that, we all thank you.

I don’t know what makes someone want to be a wildland firefighter. The idea of climbing up hills in a burning forest carrying a pickaxe and fearing for my life is about the closest thing to Hell on Earth.

Speaking of hell, it was not yet a year ago that we lost 19 hotshots when a fire on Yarnell Hill grew too fast and switched directions too quickly for the firefighters to escape. You know that those 19 are on the minds of all hotshots when they go out to fight a fire in a place as steep and difficult as Oak Creek Canyon.

But they go anyway.

The property lost can be replaced, and though it may take hundreds of years, the forest will grow back.

So as thankful as I am that a summer paradise has been saved, I am more grateful that no firefighters were hurt. Let’s hope and pray the rest of this wildfire season is safe as well.