As five major wildfires raged through Arizona last month, a fire team of the station based in Glendora assisted dozens of fire engines from several states in battling the Arizona blazes.
In immense desert heat that reached up to 112 degrees, the fire team of Engine Company No. 24 – Wendy Verlinde, Vincent Moyer, Mauricio Ramirez, Jeff Stitt and Jim Mireles – joined the 193 firemen of the Arizona All Incident Hazard Management Task Force in containing the furious fires.
Pamela Mathis, the public information officer for the task force, said the fires –
the Monument Fire in the Coronado National Forest, the Wallow fire in eastern Arizona, the Horseshoe Two Fire in southeastern Arizona and the Black Mesa Ranger District and Wash fires northeast of Payson – began around Memorial Day weekend and were nearly contained by the end of the June. Investigators are still determining the cause of the fires, but they believe the fires were “man-made.”
With dozens of homes lost and nearly 800,000 acres burned, many are calling the wildfires one of the worst in the state’s history.
The emergency task force, initiated in 2005 and supported by Arizona Department of Emergency and Military Affairs, allows other fire engines from various states to assist in emergency situations. As the recent wildfires in Arizona burned, many of the small towns were overwhelmed and lacked enough resources to battle the fires.
“The task force allows fire engines from surrounding states to provide support and back up to the fire teams already in the area,” said Mathis.
The experience battling the wildfires was both physically and emotionally demanding, said fire engineer Jim Mireles.
“We were gone away from our families for 14 days, fighting fires in high-90 degree to 112 degree heat,” said Mireles, whose team arrived back in Glendora on Thursday. He said heat conditions and the intensity of the fires were a challenge for even some of the more experience firefighters of the crew.
But assisting in the effort was a mission the members of Engine Company No. 24 were happy to take on.
“These teams came and provided a great deal of support, including moral support,” said Mathis. “They deserve a hero’s welcome home.”