7/29/2014

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Arizona tragedy hits home for local families

Arizona tragedy hits home for local families
YAKIMA, Wash.-- The tragedy in Arizona has many people remember the Yakima firefighters lost back in 2001. 4 people died in the Thirty-mile Fire in Winthrop. They were all from Yakima and Kittitas Counties including 21-year old Devin Weaver. He died fighting his first fire. The deaths in Arizona have Devin's parents reliving that horror once again.

12 years after losing their son in the Thirty Mile Fire near Winthrop, Barbara and Ken Weaver heard that 19 firefighters died in the Arizona fire. 3 other local firefighters were killed in that fire 12 years ago and the recent tragedy in Arizona hit close to home. The loss is still fresh for Ken and Barbara Weaver.

"You wouldn't think that after 12 years it would hit you like that, but it most certainly does," said Ken Weaver.

Their son was killed when a mop-up job of a forest fire suddenly exploded into out-of-control flames.

"It's like losing part of your arm, losing your arm like an amputee there," Barbara Weaver said. "You go on without it, but there's always that part missing."

What they're missing is Devin. He was killed when he was just 21. Ken tells me right after he lost Devin, he thought of times like this; how he'd feel when he'd hear of more deaths.

"About three hours into that grieving process, when you're still numb, it struck me that, you know, we're not going to be the only ones that this happens to," Ken said. "My god, what if other people have to feel like this."

Three other families did that day. Three of Devin's fellow firefighters were also killed. 18-year old Karen FitzPatrick and 19-year old Jessica Johnson were West Valley grads. 30-year old Tom Craven was from Roslyn and left behind a wife and two kids. The Weavers can't believe a major tragedy is facing another community.

"It makes you wonder why this had to happen again, why 19 families have to go through this, and you go 'why?'" said Barbara.

The Weavers say there is nothing the 19 families can do now but grieve.

A crew boss was originally charged with involuntary manslaughter in connection with the deaths of Devin and three others. He later pleaded out to a misdemeanor charge of lying to investigators and served no jail time. An investigation found every standard safety rule was broken the day of the Thirty Mile Fire.
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