Yarnell Hill Fire Staff Ride

From left: Roxanne Warneke, Kathie Purkey, Deborah Pfingston, Juliann Ashcraft on the Yarnell Hill Fire Staff Ride, April 5th, 2016. Photo courtesy of Juliann Ashcraft.
From left: Roxanne Warneke, Kathie Purkey, Deborah Pfingston, and Juliann Ashcraft on the Yarnell Hill Fire Staff Ride, April 5th, 2016. Photo courtesy of Juliann Ashcraft.

Reflections of the Yarnell Hill Staff Ride from Roxanne Warneke, wife of Billy Warneke, Chairman and founding member of WFGI.

I had wanted to remain objective throughout the Yarnell Staff Ride. I wanted to experience it as a wildland firefighter would, as my husband had experienced it on June 30th, 2013. Remaining impartial was difficult; I had to fight back tears multiple times. Walking in the footsteps that my husband took the day that he died was very healing. It was rewarding to be able to share the experience with the other families, the Incident Commanders, and the men who had worked with the crew that day. It was a very emotionally charged day for all who participated. It was not combative, but supportive, and loving. I wish more families had participated, and I wish other key figures from the Yarnell Hill Fire had taken advantage of the invitation so that they all can move forward with their own healing.

After the Staff Ride everyone from that day was able to provide input on how the Staff Ride can be better for wildland firefighters. They listened to what we, the participants had to say, and they immediately implemented those changes.

WFGI provided the Staff Ride with the notebooks, we were proud that we were able to provide them for the participants on the family Beta test, and for every wildland firefighter who has participated since then. WFGI Director Darrell Willis helped facilitate the Yarnell Staff Ride with the Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center, and he assured WFGI and the families that this Staff Ride will do justice to the Granite Mountain Hotshots, and all wildland firefighters. I believe that they all did a great job, and wildland fire will benefit greatly from this tutorial.

State Forester Jeff Whitney really has the safety and the welfare for wildland firefighters in mind, and it’s refreshing to see that the state of Arizona agrees with WFGI that wildland firefighters deserve better.

Roxanne Warneke
Chairman WFGI
Widow of Granite Mountain Hotshot William “Billy” Warneke