Alabama firefighters grieve 19 lost in Arizona - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

Alabama firefighters grieve 19 lost in Arizona

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MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) -

"I've been fighting fire for 22 years," says Derrick Heckman with the Alabama Forestry Commission.

He's heartbroken.

"We're all deeply saddened."

Heckman has been out west before fighting fires just like the one that took the lives of 19 men.

"All those 19 firefighters that were highly trained, there's a multitude of things that could have gone wrong."

And when it did, Heckman says the men deployed their fire shelters.

"That's our last chance to survive."

It's an aluminum cover firefighters hop into and hunker down.

"Traps air inside of it for us to breathe. And if that air gets past the temperature that we can breathe, then we basically have superheated air that we're breathing and it causes fatality."

Heckman says fighting a fire as large as the one in Arizona is never predictable.

In fact, most firemen "guess basically at what the fire's trying to do because we're in an area we have never seen before."

Heckman says wildfires are also impossible to outrun. In fact, they often move with the wind.

If the wind speeds out west reach 40 miles an hour, the fire travels that fast, too.

Copyright 2013  WSFA 12 News.  All rights reserved.

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