Now that the flames have died down, at least in Emigration Canyon, it's time to give an expression of appreciation to the firefighters and others who fought the blaze to a standstill and saved 80 homes threatened by the inferno.
Particularly impressive was the dedication and whole-hearted cooperation of many different agencies.At great risk to their own safety, fire crews from the Salt Lake City Fire Department, the Salt Lake County Fire Department, the U.S. Forest Service and the federal Bureau of Land Management, joined forces in the face of a raging wildfire to protect these homes. This dedication to duty resulted in all 80 homes emerging from the four-day onslaught virtually unscathed.
There were initial grumblings from a few concerned property owners who, threatened with the loss of their homes, sought to remain and aid the fire fighting effort. Their concern was understandable, but their cooperation in evacuating the area was essential.
Those professionals left to fight the fire were able to concentrate their entire effort on the blaze with no backward glance over the shoulder to make sure inexperienced homeowners were safe and unharmed.
Not being on the front line and facing the fire in its fury makes it difficult to visualize and understand the courage and perseverance needed to fight capricious wildfires. Gusting winds, unlimited fuel sources, intense heat, choking smoke, and blinding flashes of light combine to create a formidable enemy.
While helicopters ferrying buckets of water, airplanes flying loads of chemical retardant, bulldozers cutting firebreaks, and hundreds of trained men and women using shovels, fire hoses, axes, and determination combine to face the challenge, there is one ingredient that is essential - cooperation.
That cooperation came to the fore Friday and Saturday when the canyon homes faced their greatest threat. The various government units quickly formed a command post and the available resources were thrown into battle.
The attitude was contagious as expressed by Salt Lake County Fire Battalion Chief John R. Corak. "There were a number of individual operations managers assigned to the different units. There wasn't a single manager that didn't find himself on the end of a hose or a shovel at sometime during the night."
There isn't enough praise and thanks available to adequately compensate these dedicated public servants. As the residents of Emigration Canyon learned -the hard way - sometimes those stories of disaster that fill the media find a way of coming close to home.
Praise must also go out to the American Red Cross for their hours of service to the fire fighters, the National Guard for transporting the fire crews, the fire departments from South Salt Lake, West Valley City, Riverton, West Jordan, South Jordan, Murray, Midvale, Draper, Alta, and Sandy for providing backup manpower and equipment, and to other volunteers who provided the support needed to sustain the effort.
It was a remarkable performance by many people who are often under-appreciated - at least until a calamity strikes.