Honoring the thousands of wildland firefighters that put their lives on the line each year
|On August 11, 2000 Oklahoma Forestry
Services lost a friend and fellow co-worker, Jim Burnett. Jim was a
18-year fire management veteran and forester who had fought blazes all
over the nation, so when the call came for firefighters to go to
Wyoming on August 2, 2000, Jim didn't hesitate. He and a crew of
five other Oklahoma firefighters went to the Meeteetse, Wyoming fire
before being assigned to battle the Kate's Basin fire on August 10.
| The summer of 2000
was a long fire season throughout the country. Throughout much of
the wast, fires were burning with rapid rates of spread and extreme
fire behavior. In Wyoming, the Kate's Basin Fire was raging
across 33,000 acres. A crew of men from Oklahoma and Arkansas
were assigned to that fire. On August 11, 2000, engines from
Oklahoma were tending to that specific fire southwest of Thermopolis,
Jim Burnett, foreman of an Oklahoma Engine, and Presley Byington were scouting along the grader lines when they realized they could not hold the line. Winds were picking up and they needed to retreat back to safety. When the oncoming fire cut off their escape raout, Burnett started the pump on the engine, but it only ran for a few seconds, due to lack of oxygen from the fire. He was then separated from the truck as he tried to escape to a safe area on foot. The onrushing fire prevented Byington from getting out of the truck, but he was able to protect himself by deploying his fire shelter inside the truck and covering up with it.
Recognizing that Byington and Burnett might be in trouble, the Thermopolis Volunteer Fire Department responded withtheir hose deployed. After finding the engine on fire, they suppressed the fire and rescued Byington from the cab.
Before Burnett could reach safety he was overrun by the fire and killed.
| Each year, over
25,000 people risk their lives to help prevent fire from
spreading. This statue memorializes all of the fallen
firefighters and those who give their lives to fight fires.
People hear about forest fires through the media. However, only
those who have participated or been near a severe forest fire know the
trauma that is involved. Society hears about "resources being
thin" but not many realize that those resources are actually
people. For the amount of people involved in the firefighting
process, an honorable statue dedicated to those people was most
appropriate here in McCurtain County at the Oklahoma Forest Heritage