Why Police Should Take a Note From the Park Rangers, Firefighters, and Search and Rescue Teams of our Nation. Let’s Fund Those Focused on Protecting Human Life.
I met my soulmate best friend as a child because our parents were friends. Though we’ve never lived in the same place in our lives, we’re still best friends decades later. As the dual pandemics of police brutality and covid-19 have descended on our Nation, I’ve found myself up late worrying about her on an almost weekly basis because of her race. What I never considered was that I wouldn’t lose her to disease or a police bullet, but that I might lose her to a fire instead.
She lives in Arizona, a state known for a library of issues with racism, and recently moved into her mother’s house with her brother so that they could be together during the pandemic. A few weeks ago her brother came into her room asking about dinner and what she was cooking. In surprise, she said “nothing”. He asked what the burning smell was, prompting them to then look out on the back deck. To their horror, over their backyard fence they could see huge smoke plumes and glowing orange and red from a large fire.
My friend called 911 and alerted them to the fire. She was told on the phone that the fire department did not have eyes on that specific fire, but would do what they could. Hanging up the phone, she was a bit in shock about what to do. They waited another ten to fifteen minutes, staring as a family at their backyard and the blaze beyond it when suddenly they saw a man with a black bandanna over his face and dressed all in khaki, carrying a large black walkie-talkie or sat phone, jump their back fence. He then ran off around the side of the house before they could call out to him.
After seeing this strange and frightening site, the family decided they should simply leave immediately for safety. Once they got into the garage, the smell of the smoke increased dramatically. When they opened the garage door to pull out in their small Prius, they did only to discover the fire was no longer just behind the house. While they’d been looking out the back window, the fire had spread to the front of the house and the driveway was in flames.
Again they called back to 911 who told them to call the fire department directly. In explaining what was happening to the fire department, my best friend was in a complete state of panic, wondering if this would be the night she lost her life and those closest to her in the world. What she described to me as 15 minutes later, though admits it may have been much shorter or longer as her concept of time wasn’t great by then, she saw a sight that almost knocked her off her feet as two large SUVs pulled in through the flames and up their driveway in tandem.
From there, the next hour consisted of more chaos. They were separated by being in two vehicles, ended up being taken up the mountain on a pit stop to open all of the paddocks for the horses so they could save themselves from the fires, etc. Finally they were reunited, and were all together safe at a designated community shelter and meeting area where she was able to call me and tell me what happened.
I was particularly interested in the man who hopped the fence, and from what we can tell by his uniform, he was a park ranger/part of a search and rescue crew most likely. This man had left a nearby helicopter and gone running into her neighborhood to assess the situation and what was needed to save lives. From there, they even had the thoughtfulness to save the livestock and brilliant creatures, the horses of the mountain. There was no time to discriminate based on race in a fire. They screamed for help and help came from an agency that I guarantee does not have the same kind of funding as the police forces in this nation.
First and foremost, I can never thank the park rangers and other safety officers and firefighters who rushed in to save their family. They are the most beautiful people, and I couldn’t imagine losing their bright spirit and support in my life. Secondly, I’d like to strongly suggest that everyone calling the “defund police” campaign nonsense take a moment to seriously consider the many ways we could increase protection of human life in this Nation by providing more support to our EMS, Firefighters, Parks Rangers, and Search and Rescue crews. Park Rangers don’t go around throwing kids on the ground and kneeling on their necks when they find the person having not paid for a campground for the night. They don’t shoot people in the back as they run away. When it comes to community policing solutions, this is what we’re talking about.