The Fire Line by Fernanda Santos

The Granite Mountain Hotshots were a team of Prescott Arizona firefighters charged with reducing wildfire risk through fuel control and abatement, and with fighting wildfires that flared across the American southwest. Below, members of the team posed in the branches of an ancient alligator juniper tree they saved from a fire.

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Author Fernanda Santos, of the New York Times, profiles the backgrounds and aspirations of the firefighters. She writes,

The Granite Mountain Hotshots had come to live by a simple set of principles spelled out on page 1 of their standard operating guidelines:  Respond fast, solve the problem, be nice, go home safe.  p. 93

“Be nice” meant cooperating cheerfully with other members of the team. This was an explicit point of accountability and evaluation in annual reviews. Working with a smile was a sign of character and an important requirement of membership on a team that faced hard physical labor and exhausting fire fights.

On the last day of June, 2013, all but one of the 20-member team died together when they were trapped by the fast-moving Yarnell Hill fire.

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