While most people celebrated our independence, some 600 firefighters had more than hot dogs and fireworks on their minds.
"It's a holiday but the folks on this fire, they want to be here. They want to put this fire out and end this," said Operations Management Chief Carl Schwope on Thursday.
Schwope said firefighters were close to having the Yarnell Hill Wildfire under control, and by Friday night, containment had reached 90 percent.
"The fire is looking really well. Yesterday we showed it at 45 percent containment," explained Schwope.
That was a big morale booster for the men and women who are also coping with the loss of 19 firefighters from the Granite Mountain Hotshots on Sunday.
"During the day, when there is a lot of work and you're spending a lot of energy, all your thoughts and energy is going into your job. Then, at night when you lay down in your sleeping bag, then all that reality starts to sink in," Schwope said.
"It's a great tragedy and a great loss for our line of work and everybody that's in it," said Javier Ruiz, a helicopter crew member from Apple Valley, CA.
Ruiz and his team arrived Sunday, the day the 19 firefighters died.
"We heard the radio traffic over there. It was really devastating and really unfortunate," Ruiz said.
"It's hard, it's very difficult. It could have been any one of us, you know," he continued.
Ruiz said he's glad hard work has paid off and containment is nearing 100 percent. Schwope explained that full containment is a way to honor the 19 lost firefighters.
"I think we're kind of getting to the point now that this fire is almost out. So then we'll all go home, and it's a whole new reality when you step away and you don't have the adrenaline and focus of putting the fire out," Schwope said.
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