Cedar Rapids firefighter recalls time on wildfire front line - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Cedar Rapids firefighter recalls time on wildfire front line

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CEDAR RAPIDS (KWWL) -

The wildfire in Arizona continues to burn after killing 19 firefighters and destroying hundreds of homes near Prescott, Arizona.

The 19 who died were part of an elite group called the Hot Shots.

The firefighters served on the front line trying to protect the area around them.

Cedar Rapids firefighter Daniel Haas served in a similar role earlier in his career.

"For me it's really something getting out west, doing something physical and getting paid for it," he said.

For four seasons Haas was part of a crew on the front line fighting wild fires.

"It's grueling work. They want to see your elbows and your rumps. It means your bent over digging lines with tools the entire time," he said.

Haas fought fires from Texas to California to Colorado.  Only once did he and his crew find themselves in an uncomfortable position after a back burn got out of control.

Haas says he wasn't fearful and relied on his training to get to safety.

"There was 20 of us.  We knew what the plan was.  We knew where our escape zone was," he said.

The highly trained men and women who serve on these front line crews understand the risks, but few could have expected the tragic scene that unfolded in Arizona.

"You know where your safety route's at, and your escape plan, but something like this is never anticipated," Haas said.  "You're never ready for it, but it's always in the back of your mind that this may happen."

While investigators try to figure out what went wrong in Arizona, Haas is keeping the 19 firefighters in his prayers.

"My heart goes out to the family. I'm thinking, gosh, their kids, their spouses, all their loved ones at home.  I hope they're okay," he said.

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