Flags flown at half staff after 19 firefighters killed in AZ wildfire

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - An American flag is at half staff at LSU's Fire and Emergency Training Institute. Assistant Director Alan Joos says the news of the 19 firefighters killed in the line of duty hits hard.

"It was just total shock. That many guys lost at one time was a horrific event," said Joos.

Wildfires are not common in South Louisiana because of the amount of moisture here. But on the west coast it's typically dry. Joos says most wildfires are caused by bad weather and the wind makes it even worse.

"As the winds change it changes dynamics it can go from a mellow, low-level fire. To the winds change and blow it up and it becomes a different animal within seconds," he said.

The institute has three classes with 20 to 25 trainees per class each year.  And already they know the reward for fighting fires is greater than the risk.

"My stepmom she keeps me updated on all of the line-of-duty deaths. When I got the text, it was almost overwhelming," said Tyler Marcel, a trainee at FETI.

Marcel knows bad news well.  His stepfather, a police officer, was killed in the line of duty. But he understands the risk and loves the reward.

"It's like you're a real-time superman. It's awesome, you get to help people and to save lives," he said.

Joos says that the risks are part of the territory, and it's all a part of being a firefighter.

"Proper training, situational awareness, ongoing training, it can be as safe as it could be. It's always going to by those dynamics we just can't control and that's the inherent nature of the job."

A memorial ceremony in honor of the 19 firefighters killed while fighting the Yarnell Hill fire in Arizona will be held on Tuesday at 2 p.m. at the State Fire Marshal's Office on Independence Blvd.

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