The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Local News

July 1, 2013

Local firemen share the pain

— Art Martynuska and Tom Callihan did not know any of the 19 elite firefighters who died in an Arizona inferno on Sunday, but they have worked with a whole lot of brave people just like them.

The Granite Mountain Hotshots crew members passed away while fighting an out-of-control, lightning-sparked wildfire north of Phoenix.

It appears the men became overwhelmed by the erratic nature of the blaze and tried to save themselves by taking shelter in last-resort, blanket-like tent structures.

Although their family members, friends and comrades are mourning them most, the tragedy has emotionally touched firefighters across the nation.

“It reinforces the fact how dangerous that this profession can be,” said Martynuska, a Johnstown resident and president of the Pennsylvania Professional Fire Fighters Association. “You don’t think about it on a daily basis.”

Callihan, Oakland Volunteer Fire Company’s fire administrator, added, “It’s a terrible loss. There is a certain bond between everybody who is a firefighter. You kind of put yourself into that situation of what if that was one of your guys or somebody you know.”

It is believed to be the nation’s worst wildland firefighting tragedy since 29 people died during a blaze at Los Angeles’ Griffith Park in 1933.

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