Originally Published: September 18, 2003 6:10 p.m.
PRESCOTT – Two years have passed now since tri-city firefighters watched the devastating news of their comrades from across the country: while trying to save victims of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, 343 New York City firefighters perished.
And even though the months since Sept. 11, 2001, may have dried the tears and dulled the horror, the impacts of that major blow continue to reverberate through the firefighting profes-sion.
Indeed, watching hundreds of peers die in a single tragedy would be difficult to bear for any profession. But for firefighters, whose main mission is to save lives, the event was bound to leave a lasting mark.
The firefighters who daily man the engines and staff the fire stations of the tri-city area say that myriad changes – some positive and some negative – continue to emanate from the tumbling walls of the Twin Towers.
Among the most obvious of the changes is the way in which responsibilities and expectations continue to rise for fire services.
A common thread in the comments from officials with the Prescott Fire Department, the Central Yavapai Fire District (CYFD), and the Chino Valley Fire District touched on the additional training and equipment that is necessary to guard against not only terrorism, but chemical and biological threats as well.
And for rural fire departments, those can be daunting responsibilities.
Local firefighters have trained recently or are in the process of training for such varied situations as nuclear and radiation emergencies, infectious diseases, and explosives. Equipment needs are also on the rise.
Those requirements can be especially burdensome, Prescott Fire Chief Darrell Willis said, because promised federal financial help has been hard to come by.
"We're just not seeing the extra funding," Willis said. Even though small fire departments are under the same standards as those in the larger cities, he said, much of the federal aid is going to metropolitan areas.
But that doesn't reduce the risks in the rural areas. Basically, local fire officials say, the Sept. 11 attacks opened their eyes to dangers that they never would have considered as threats before.