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Arizona and a nation mourn the loss of 19 firefighters

Published: Tue, July 9, 2013 @ 12:00 a.m.

Not since Sept. 11, 2001, have so many firefighters died in the United States on a single day.

And for us Easterners, it is difficult to imagine what went wrong in Yarnell, Ariz., to snuff out the lives of 19 members of the Prescott-based Granite Mountain Hotshots who were among 600 firefighters trying to contain a blaze that burned 13 square miles and destroyed more than 100 homes.

We understand tornadoes. We understand fires that engulf buildings. We even understand acts of terrorism. But to truly understand a wildfire, you’ve got to be there.

And that’s what makes the lives and deaths of these men — the oldest 43 and most of them in their 20s, with the youngest 21 — so extraordinary. They had seen wildfires up close, felt the hot breath of a fire that was eager to consume anything in its path, and yet they put themselves in harm’s way again and again.

Brief biographies of the fallen Hotshots in almost every case mentioned their long-time fascination with and devotion to firefighting. Just as in urban fire departments, in some cases these were jobs pursued through generations of a family.

But this is a special kind of firefighting, one that involves days at a time on the front line wielding shovels, axes, chain saws. All this is done dressed in long-sleeved shirts, hard hats and heavy gear, battling not only smoke and flames but triple-digit temperatures.

It’s by and large a young man’s profession, but one that not only requires youth, but education, devotion and judgment. And a fitness regimen that requires hours at workout facilities, lifting weights, climbing rock walls and building endurance.

Last respects

There will be a memorial service in Prescott today for the 19 men whose bodies were brought in a caravan of hearses from Phoenix. Thousands lined the route of the procession and thousands more will pay tribute today, The bodies will then be transported for individual services by family and friends.

And through it all, each body has had and will continue to have an honor guard, a fellow firefighter who demonstrates the brotherhood that binds these squads.

After the bodies have been buried and the final tones of a bagpiper playing “Amazing Grace” have faded, investigators will reassemble everything that is known about the wind and fire that trapped these men so that, perhaps, another squad can be saved on another day.

And if so, these men who chose to pursue a life of danger so that others may live will have one more addition to their legacy.

In the meantime, it is only fitting that we do our small part to pay tribute to these men as individuals. These are the Granite Mountain Hotshots who lost their lives in Arizona.

Andrew Ashcraft, 29

Robert Caldwell, 23

Travis Carter, 31

Dustin Deford, 24

Christopher MacKenzie, 30

Eric Marsh, 43

Grant McKee, 21

Sean Misner, 26

Scott Norris, 28

Wade Parker, 22

John Percin, 24

Anthony Rose, 23

Jesse Steed, 36

Joe Thurston, 32

Travis Turbyfill, 27

William Warneke, 25

Clayton Whitted , 28

Kevin Woyjeck, 21

Garret Zuppiger, 27


1NoBS(2829 comments)posted 3 years ago

What's the perfect example of hypocrisy? The Vindicator getting all misty-eyed over the 19 firefighters who died in Arizona, while locally the same Vindicator endorses policies that weaken local fire departments and increase the risk to our local firefighters. The Vindicator recently - a few days ago - referred to Youngstown's firefighters, as well as the rest of the city employees, as rats. Were the Arizona firefighters rats, too, Vindicator? What's the difference, then?

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2dennismangan(14 comments)posted 3 years ago

The earlier editorial to which you refer described those city employees who who are happy to take a city check but can't abide living in the city as rats deserting a sinking ship. It was not a commentary on all city employees, only those who jumped ship as soon as the Ohio Legislature gave them the ability to do so. You're suggesting that the newspaper shouldn't honor fallen firefighters for their sacrifices unless it endorses the self-serving behavior of every firefighter or city employee. I'd disagree.

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3NoBS(2829 comments)posted 3 years ago

What was said was, cutting and pasting from the previous editorial: "Finally, there is nothing city government can do to stop the decline. People just don’t want to live in Youngstown — not even those who are feeding at the public trough.

When residency requirements were declared unconstitutional, city workers were like rats escaping a sinking ship. But, they certainly didn’t give up their public jobs."

DeSouza's term, which is freely used by those who desire to put down public employees - feeding (or slopping) at the public trough - is offensive. It can be construed no other way than a pejorative term.

And that editorial plainly claims that there was a mass exodus of ungrateful, greedy, self-serving public employees. "Rats from a sinking ship" is not a term used to describe a few individuals. That editorial was offensive to the hundreds of city employees who did not move. The truth is relatively few people moved. The truth is that the abolishing of residency was very similar to the institution of Ohio's concealed carry law. The highly-anticipated and melodrama-tized results never happened. Just as Main Street, Ohio was NOT turned into the OK Corral, with people shooting each other over nothing, so too did the public employees not bolt as soon as they were allowed. And the truth is, they didn't give up their jobs because they didn't have to. The point of rescinding residency was that jobs were no longer tied to employment. Just like the private sector, which is brought up every time the public sector "gets" something the private sector does not, the public sector is now able to enjoy the simple freedom of living wherever they choose.

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4jupiter(116 comments)posted 3 years ago

So, by using the Vindicator's "logic," one is a "rat" for exercising one's Constitutional Right (specifically the right to live wherever one chooses)? One would think that a paper-whose very existence and relevancy is determined by the exercising of Constitutional Rights (1st Amendment, Open Records Laws, etc.) would champion individuals exercising their rights. But lets take a real look at this: The Vindicator isn't a neutral and true newspaper anymore than a high school rag is...The Vindicator exists as a vehicle to push political agendas, first and foremost. One of those political agendas is attempting to portray public employees as a "societal problem." This comes from the Radical Right's agenda at attempting to create a schism in society in the middle class. Because if the middle class is fighting amongst themselves (public vs. private) no one is taking the Right to task for their draconian policies which are the real reason why communities and the middle class are suffering.
One also has to point out the obvious in using a pejorative statement such as "rats" to describe any group of individuals. I would offer that name calling in a public forum such as an editorial, while done behind the mask of anonymity, is the true definition of the term "rat."
I take solace in the big picture however: Where one resides does not determine one's dedication or competency to their employer. The "rat's leaving a sink ship" analogy however is more fitting to those in the journalism field, however. How are those circulation numbers doing theses days? What's it like being part of a dying and ineffectual "profession?" (I use that term loosely as very few associated with the Vindicator are remotely professional.)
By all means-keep trying to appear relevant and unbiased while carrying your masters' message. It makes for good comedy for the rest of us. And please, the next time you call anyone a name, Vindy, have the courage of your convictions to publish your own name. It gives a modicum of credibility to what is so obviously just another propaganda piece.

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5dennismangan(14 comments)posted 3 years ago

Yes, "feeding at the public trough" is pejorative. But I'll repeat my response to your initial criticism: just because we disapprove -- even in strong terms -- to some behaviors of public employees does not mean we're being hypocritical when we find something praise- worthy in public employees. As to how many city employees have jumped ship, it's only been four years since the Ohio Supreme Court upheld the Legislature's prohibition of residency laws. It would seem to me that the five-year mark next year would be a good time to look at how many city employees still live in the city. But I do recall that even before the Supreme Court ruled, one or two guys announced they were moving and virtually dared the city to do something about it. And while it wouldn't qualify as "leaving the ship" it seems to me that relatively few of the city's recent safety force hires have been city residents. Perhaps we'll get a better picture on the five year anniversary.
As to Jupiter's remarks: There is no constitutional right to a city job that preempts the right of a city's residents to place residency requirements on their employees. The U.S. Supreme Court has spoken to that. In Ohio, the General Assembly used a phrase in the state Constitution to justify a law it passed that pre-empted the ability of subdivisions to enforce residency laws. That law was pushed by an odd coalition of union-beholden Democrats and libertarian-minded Republicans.
As to who has the "courage" to publish their name: newspaper editorials are traditionally not signed by individual writers because they represent the institutional position of the paper (and can be the work of more than one writer). It's not as anonymous as the postings on this board, although I'm using my name; I doubt that you were christened Jupiter.

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6NoBS(2829 comments)posted 3 years ago

Mr. Mangan, you see it as non-hypocritcal, and I see it the opposite. We'll have to agree to disagree.

Now, "rats fleeing a sinking ship" has the connotation of immediacy. And the point that editorial paragraph was making was that as soon as they could, they bolted. Now you want to use a 5-year benchmark. You're changing the statement the editorial makes.

Yes, I recall a couple of employees who moved out early, ahead of the decision, and "dared the city to do something about it" is fairly accurate. But that's one or two. And they did so at their peril. If the city chose to spend the money, they could have punished or fired those employees. The employees were likely banking on the city not wanting to spend the resources, given that the writing was on the wall that residency was going to be a thing of the past. WHY they did it might have been a good topic for at least an editorial or two, if not an investigative series.

I'll offer my opinion that including new hires, after residency was banished, is apples and oranges to the original argument. I believe I recently saw a few video clips on the Vindy.com site of Fire Chief O'Neill commenting on the difficulty of finding qualified candidates for his department within the city. The city has changed since the rescinding of residency. And the new hires were not hired with any expectation that they'd relocate to the city. In fact, for the piddling starting wages the safety services offer, I doubt anybody could afford to move. When you expect someone to literally risk their life for less than $9.00 per hour, you have to accept that that employee is most likely using this job as a stepping stone to another, better-paying job. All requiring residency would do is remove qualified candidates from the employment pool. That, by the way, is one of the reasons residency was abolished.

Notice I'm giving you a pass on a few things, such as your admission that the Vindicator uses pejorative terms to describe public employees. While that confirms what I and many others have suspected for some time, it's a discussion for another day.

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7dennismangan(14 comments)posted 3 years ago

No BS. Thanks for the conversation. I think we can also agree that we're starting to beat a dead horse here. While you may see it as moving the goalposts, I'll still await a five-year evaluation of the effects of the General Assembly's substitution of its wisdom for that of the residents of Youngstown regarding residency. And since you're giving me a pass on using a pejorative, I'll give you a pass on your contention that the people of Youngstown are not fit to protect the people of Youngstown.

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8NoBS(2829 comments)posted 3 years ago

Now, Mr. Mangan, I never said that. You're simply making things up. There's a difference between contending that the people of Youngstown are not fit for a given job, and citing a fire chief's words from a Vindy.com video clip. There may well be plenty of people who are fit for those jobs - we'll never know, because they apparently do not apply for them.

When you reveal the numbers at the 5-year anniversary of the repeal of residency, please at least show the figures with and without the new hires.

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9dennismangan(14 comments)posted 3 years ago

Now I see how the game is played. You can twist and exaggerate what other people say to your ends, but when you use a word it means just what you choose it to mean — neither more nor less. (credit to Lewis Carroll)

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10jupiter(116 comments)posted 3 years ago

Mr. Mangan...one could offer that residency requirements are a form of "kick-back" to the municipality, being forced to purchase a home as a form of quid pro quo in exchange for employment. THAT certainly seems somehow less than noble, does it not?
As for giving city residents preferential choice in hiring...who is to say that this does not occur when it can? Many see no problems with offering bonus points on civil service exams for residency. The true issue with residency I feel is that individuals such as yourself (for myriad reasons) feel that public employees are somehow second class citizens, lacking the rights accorded to others in our society.
In addition to the audit that you suggest, it would also be interesting to perform an audit as to the EDUCATION and TRAINING of city resident employees versus non- resident employees. Also include disciplinary files (where applicable). THAT may tell a whole truer story as to "who protects what." Certainly a man of reason such as yourself would agree that in these austere times that it is essential to hire the "right person for the right job" regardless of such parochial concerns as to where an employee spends their free-time? And certainly a watch-dog of the public trough (your words) such as yourself would agree that when possible, the BEST trained and educated should be hired, regardless of capricious determinants like where one's home is? Are you a proponent of nepotism and cronyism as well?
Quit pushing an agenda disguised as public policy.

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11NoBS(2829 comments)posted 3 years ago

Is this how you want it to be, Mr. Mangan? OK. Kindly show where I said the people of Youngstown are not fit to protect the people of Youngstown. I said nothing of the kind, and you know it. But I took a parting shot remarking about your confirming what thousands of people already believe - that the Vindicator is biased against public employees - and you were compelled to give me a shot right back, whether it was true or not.

What have I "twisted and exaggerated" in my exchanges with you? I identified what was my opinion, and stated what was fact. I held you to the same standard, objecting when you wanted to change the parameters midstream. Throughout our exchange, you've been trying to change the meaning of words, and becoming frustrated when I call you on it. You actually address very little of what I say to you, instead focusing on ways to renege without losing face. Here's an example: Rats fleeing a sinking ship don't generally wait five years to flee the ship, and when counting the number of rats fleeing that ship, nobody includes all the rats that joined the rats who already fled the ship, five years after they fled the ship. The only reason to include them is to skew the figures. Those who came after have nothing to do with those who moved. So when I see the writing on the wall, that the Vindicator will likely be coming out with an article about the effects of the rescinding of residency, five years later, and I ask only that you include the number of people who actually moved out, instead of lumping them in with those non-residents hired after residency was no longer required. I said nothing about wanting to see ONLY the number of people who moved, just that you include the number. Your reply to that is to accuse me of "twisting and exaggerating."

How interesting that you'd quote Humpty Dumpty.

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12dennismangan(14 comments)posted 3 years ago

NoBS: It was your exaggeration that started the whole conversation. "The Vindicator recently - a few days ago - referred to Youngstown's firefighters, as well as the rest of the city employees, as rats." The rat characterization would have only applied to those who left, but you expanded it to fit your characterization of hypocrisy by the paper. You maintain that few actually left, but you haven't back that up with any numbers. All you do is assure me that the paper is wrong by your standard of right and wrong. At any rate, you obviously have way more free time to devote to these postings than I, so I'll be excusing myself.

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