CHESTERFIELD, Va. (WTVR)--Bill Marsiglio has seen the images of this raging fire. He’s still trying to process the painful news that an entire Arizona crew dedicated to knocking down unpredictable wildfires is gone.
The 37-year veteran firefighter from Chesterfield County knows what that elite crew was up against when it was fighting the Yarnell Hill fire, northwest of Phoenix Sunday.
In the past eleven years, the highly trained Marsiglio has been deployed out West close to a dozen times to face similar scenes. “It's a little different ballgame than fighting fires around here. Fires out there are a lot bigger, they move quicker, the wind current and temps all make a difference” Marsiglio added.
He also works for the Urban Forestry Division and says in those tense moments, you must rely on your training. Marsiglio says crews in Chesterfield go through extensive training, even focusing on the use of fire shelters like the ones those specialized firefighters relied on when they lost their lives in Arizona
“Fire shelters are a last ditch effort. Usually when you get into one, there’s a 50-50 chance of making it through. You always want to try and get out of the area before it comes to that” Marsiglio explained.
News of the loss of the 19 firefighters is hitting departments hard across the country. It's the most firefighter deaths since the September 11th attacks. Firefighters here in Central Virginia have a personal connection.
Hanover Battalion Chief Larry Snyder, who’s also a part of the Central Virginia Incident Management Team says they’ve done advanced training with the very crew that is now handling the Arizona wildfire.
Leading the effort? A man who Snyder says has frequented the Richmond area, prepping Snyder and other firefighters here to deal with critical fire situations
“Clay Templin was one of our planning section chief instructors, so we're learning and have learned from the folks who are taking over this fire. It brings a local feel to folks out there battling this fire” Snyder said.
Snyder and others say the situation in Arizona just underscores the true danger they face each and every day. “Our prayers go out to the families of those who were killed. It is a terrible tragedy” Snyder added.