19 fire-fighters reported missing whilst tackling a huge blaze in Arizona are confirmed dead. The vast majority were from Prescott, said Wade Ward with the Prescott Fire Department reports CNN. The crack team of 20 hotshots, reportedly 18 from the Granite Mountain Hotshots, were working in the area when high winds whipped the flames into an inferno. One firefighter survived.
The men were digging a fire-line and creating an escape route when disaster struck. Their safety-zone and escape route was insufficient to cope with the huge blaze.
The men were battling a blaze which broke out Friday in Yarnell Hill northwest of Phoenix. The cause of the blaze is thought to have been a lightening strike.
A Facebook page in memory of the Arizona firefighters was created Sunday night. The death toll for firefighters in the US is relatively high. Even before the 19 were killed 43 firefighter fatalities were reported in 2013, and a total of 83 firefighters died last year whilst on duty.
Firefighters are the all too often forgotten heroes in society. In 9/11 in New York fire departments paid a high price in loss of life. The firefighter's families rarely receive the financial recognition they deserve. Much is made these days of volunteers in the military facing mental health issues and PTSD, post traumatic stress disorder, but what about firefighters and others?.
The 19 men were relatively young. They gave their lives trying to protect others. President Obama has acknowledged the loss of life, calling the dead firefighters heroes and saying they "selflessly put themselves in harm's way to protect the lives and property of fellow citizens they would never meet". Let's hope this time that translates into safety improvements for firefighters and financial safeguards.
This side of the Pond, in the UK, around 200 firefighters are tackling a huge blaze at a plastics factory. The massive fire broke out at a factory unit in Smethwick which housed 100,000 tonnes of plastic recycling material, in Smethick. Three firefighters have been taken to hospital for treatment.
A 6,000ft plume of smoke is rising above the area Monday making visibility and air quality poor. Flights are not affected at this time but if travelling to or from Birminghan airport it might be worth checking the current state of play. As the blazing factory unit is part of an industrial estate there are no close residents. The Fire Service is warning those closest to the fire to keep all windows and doors closed until the fire is under control. One Primary school is closed and there is traffic congestion in the area.
Fire services responded to an emergency call around 23:00 BST Sunday. The cause of the fire is thought to be Chinese Lanterns which dropped in the area.