POSTED: Tuesday, July 2, 2013 - 10:15pm
UPDATED: Tuesday, July 2, 2013 - 10:19pm
Baton Rouge, LA (NBC33) — State leaders and local firefighters paid tribute Tuesday to the 19 men who lost their lives fighting a wildfire in Arizona.
State Fire Marshal butch Browning and Mike Strain, who, as commissioner of the Department of Agriculture and Forestry, oversees responses to wildfires, hosted a memorial service in their honor.
"To let their families know, and to let all of their comrades know that the Louisiana people, specifically the Louisiana fire service, has a very special home for them," Browning stated.
The men were members of the Granite Mountain Hotshot crew, an elite squad of firefighters. Hotshot crews work in teams of 20. One member stayed back on Sunday to serve as a lookout, which is why he was the only one to survive.
"An immediate shock wave went across America," Browning said of first hearing the sad news. "Certainly across the Louisiana fire service."
That shock wave was especially strong, and personal, for David Hughes, a firefighter from Zachary.
"It's very special to honor the fallen firefighters," he said. "My grandfather died in the line of service in 1985."
Hughes' grandfather served with the Slaughter Volunteer Fire Department, and he inspired Hughes to become a firefighter, himself. Tuesday, he had his son and daughter by his side.
"I wanted to make sure that I brought my children up (to the memorial) and show the importance of to honor our fallen heroes."
The names of each of the 19 fallen firefighters was read, and a bell was rung to signify the end of a job well done.
"Many times, many people will wonder if their lives have ever made a difference," said Strain. "I can tell you that these firefighters' lives have made a difference."
Hughes tries not to discuss the danger of his job with his children, though every firefighter is aware of it.
"When firefighters go to work every day," Marshall stated, "deep down in their mind, they worry about what are the things they may have to do."