Syracuse firefighters travel to fight wildfires and reflect on the 9/11 attack.
BY HAILEY MINTON
Fire Chief Aaron Byington said they require all Syracuse firefighters to have the necessary training to fight wildfires. Antelope Island is under their protection, and firefighting in wild areas requires different tools and techniques than structure fires. Syracuse city has two brush trucks, and they have the capacity to go out and help other areas that need assistance when they get the call. Wildland season begins anywhere from May and lasts through October. This year, they hired two seasonal wildland firefighters who specialize in fighting those fires; they happen to be twin brothers. They go out on deployment with the full-time staff and respond to fires anywhere in the western United States. In early August, when I chatted with Chief Byington, there was a team in Kellogg, Idaho, fighting the Character Complex Fire.
They send help when it is requested, and they only send it if it doesn’t strain the staffing levels in Syracuse. “Our first priority is here in Syracuse. Benefits come from increased revenues from sending our people out because we bill for that service.” Another benefit is the training they get in different environments. They bring back expertise to share with the rest of the Syracuse crew. “Up in Kellogg, they have some big timbers, and we don’t really have that along the Wasatch front until you get high up on the bench.” This year, they deployed to Arizona, Nevada, Idaho, and they helped out with the Art Nord Fire up at Snow Basin on the 24th of July. That fire spread over about 50 acres, and all the firefighters assisting were able to contain it before it overtook any homes. There were burn marks 20 feet away from one residence.
Fire departments have each other’s backs, and if someone needs assistance to fight a fire in a different city, other departments will come to help. “If the roles were reversed, and we had a major fire here in Syracuse, we could rely on them to come help us out.” Many brush trucks and additional firefighters are only a radio call away. The Northern Utah Interagency Fire Center is a kind of a dispatch for firefighters. They get a resource order, and they send out the request to the nearby departments. If the departments nearby don’t have the resources to fill it, the agency casts the net wider. Not long ago, Chief Byington was in Salt Lake, and he saw an ambulance from Arizona heading up north to help out.
Chief Byington explained the work can be exhilarating, but there’s a side of it that’s not as glamorous. With wildland fires, sometimes they need someone a mile or two away from the fire to watch for spot fires. Ashes will carry and set another fire, up to a mile away. Someone needs to put it out before it can grow. “Sometimes, you’re just sitting and watching. You’re roughing it, like it’s an extended camping trip.” He explained there is a feeling that comes with going into a building on fire and fighting it. “It’s exhilarating. The adrenaline is going and it’s pretty cool. There’s a feeling you get from doing that.” However, when it’s all over, and the adrenaline wears off, you still need to clean up and write reports. Altogether, Chief Byington said it has been a great career for him, and he’s loved it.
Some of the firefighters on the cover are just beginning their careers. For Gunnar Simpson, it was his first day! It’s been 20 years since the 9/11 attack, and I asked each of them what they remembered from that day. Scott Turnbow was a firefighter at the time, and he said he never thought something like that could happen here. “It has changed a lot of things over the last 20 years. There’s a lot more training for terrorism and active shooters now. The sense of security has changed. It seems like anything can happen now. It doesn’t just happen overseas.” Chief Byington was also in the fire service at that time, and he was blown away by the live coverage. “I drove to the station, and we all watched the towers fall, in total shock.” With a lot of the crew being so young at the time, some didn’t have memories of it. Rich Brough, who was in high school at the time, remembers watching it in class. “I understood it was bad, but I didn’t fully understand the full gravity of the situation.”
What happened that day rocked America and seemed to evoke empathy in us as a nation. 9/11 Day is an organization that was formed after the attack, and they turned the anniversary into a national day of service. Cindy McGinty lost her husband in the attack and said, “We can’t bring our loved ones back. But perhaps in tribute, we can work to rekindle the spirit of unity that arose in the aftermath of the attacks.” If you want to take action, visit serve911.org for details about participating in a local food drive, blood drive, 2k or 5k race fundraiser, or a service project.
You can also attend Weber Remembers 9/11 Project at the Weber County Fairgrounds. All the events are free. The exhibit is an interactive museum experience using photo boards that were created to help visitors walk back in time. The time frame covers the late 1990s through the day of the terrorist attack and then into the response recovery time period. The North parking lot will have an exhibit of emergency and military vehicles, where you can take pictures and talk with the professionals. There will also be live local entertainers. They need 400 volunteers over the course of the three days, so if you’re interested in helping, visit majorbrenttaylor.com
Sept. 9th & 10th
9 a.m. – 1 p.m.: 9/11 Exhibit Field Trips @ Weber County Fair Grounds
4 p.m. – 8 p.m.: Fairgrounds Exhibit Free & Open to the Public @ Weber County Fairgrounds. This includes the 9/11 Project Immersive Museum, community service exhibitors, “Touch a Truck” parking lot exhibit, and live entertainment.
6:46 a.m.: Early Morning Fire Memorials
@ Roy Fire Station No. 31
@ Riverdale Fire Station No. 41
@ Weber Fire Station No. 61 in Farr West
10 a.m.: Fairgrounds Exhibit Free & Open to the Public @ Weber County Fairgrounds. This includes the 9/11 Project Immersive Museum, community service exhibitors, “Touch a Truck” parking lot exhibit, and live entertainment.
Fire Ride Motorcycle Ride @ Salt Lake City to the Ogden Amphitheater fallenfirefightermemorial.org
12 p.m.: Firefighter Memorial Ceremony @ America’s Fallen Firefighter Memorial Park Next to the Ogden Amphitheater
8 p.m.: Fairground Exhibit Closes