The Hotshots: Heroes of the Burning Fields (A Poem)
Introduction: Heroes of the Burning Fields
I wrote this poem after reading about the tragedy of 19 Granite Mountain Hotshots who lost their lives while battling the Yarnell Hill fire in Phoenix, Arizona on June 30, 2013. Hotshots are forest firefighters who deal with wildfires in the western part of the United States. They fight fires by creating a break in the path of the fire. In the case of the Granite Mountain Hotshots, fierce winds caused the fire to overrun the Hotshots, catching them by surprise and cutting off their evacuation routes.
I wondered how such people could put their lives on the line, knowing that the forces of nature could easily destroy them. I tried to understand this process and their amazing courage by writing this poem.
The media often talks about heroes, people who have saved lives, but none, perhaps, so impactful as the Granite Mountain Hotshots. These and other Hotshot crews deserve our attention, gratitude and, at the very least, a poem.
Heroes of the Burning Fields
Fighting fire with fire
in those bright yellow suits of glory.
Walking on flames like a messiah walking on water.
Twenty Hotshots surrounding the flames,
not afraid to rise from the dead
like Lazarus did many centuries ago.
Hotshots in green trucks racing up the ridge,
trying to outsmart an aggressive nature,
heading the galloping flames off at the pass.
Some say they are crazy cowboys and cowgirls
in fire retardant suits, drip-torches and shovels,
saving the town from the bad guys.
Fighting fire from the ground like outnumbered soldiers.
Responding to a crisis in a moment’s notice—
no matter where they are.
They’re superheroes of all faiths and colors.
The ultimate team players
As the helicopters discharge gallons of water to douse the flames.
Like surfers of the burning fields,
they try to understand nature’s unpredictable forces--
Fire burns fire, stopping the enemy in its tracks.
They run parallel, shaking and baking in the blaze,
But they never panic.
They know the feeding frenzy, the fierce winds will eventually subside.
Circling around the spreading sea of flames,
Digging a boundary, a thirty-five foot path,
Clearing the brush, scraping the ground to the bare bone,
The Hotshots get lost in the danger
of the enormous red-orange swirl--
The burning-hot heat that lights up the sky.