|U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, at podium, speaks on July 9 at Timís Toyota Center, as, from left, Ariz. Gov. Jan Brewer, Prescott Mayor Marlin Kuykendall, Tim Hill, president, Professional Firefighters of Arizona, Prescott Fire Chief Dan Fraijo, and Prescott Wildland Fire Chief Darrell Willis look on.|
Les Stukenberg/Daily Courier/Courtesy Photo
Town of Prescott Valley and Tim's Toyota Center employees seem to credit "the other guy" for making their biggest job ever run smoothly.
That, of course, was performing the myriad of tasks that came with the July 9 "Our Fallen Brothers - A Celebration of Life Ceremony" for the 19 Granite Mountain Hotshots who died battling the Yarnell Hill Fire June 30.
While the International Association of Fire Fighters sent a team 20 strong to coordinate the memorial, basic tasks fell to the local contingent. This included everything from handing out water bottles to directing traffic.
Gary Spiker, general manager for Tim's Toyota Center, where the memorial was held, was in awe of how "everything fell together" with the plethora of people involved.
"This was something you hope never happens, but it really was a privilege to be a part of honoring the 19 heroes," Spiker said, adding, "Everybody had to be part of this. Larry (Prescott Valley Town Manager Tarkowski) told me, 'Whatever you need, we will give you.'"
"Essentially, all hands were on deck. A goodly percentage of the town's 190 employees volunteered to support the event," Tarkowski said, including everyone from the town attorney to pool lifeguards. "They helped at the center, greeting people, ushering, answering questions."
Spiker said his assistant general manager, Scott Rubke, returned early from vacation to help him, marketing manager Dave Kredell and Catfish Satelli at a dozen different planning meetings and liaisons with Hotshot families.
"We just tried to honor the parents' wishes and put together a nice program," Spiker said.
TTC staff and about 35 volunteers from the Town's staff they quickly trained worked right up to the service time, from coordinating practices for the bagpipe group to changing the stage to accommodate dignitaries.
"We've never had the Vice President in the building, and it all changes when you get the Secret Service running around, checking out where issues could be," he said.
Prescott Valley Police Officer Paul Hines and his K9 partner, Kio, saw firsthand how Secret Service Explosive Ordnance Disposal teams used specially trained dogs to check for bombs.
"I'll stick with checking for drugs," Hines said, adding the group locked down TTC after the bomb check, and would not allow firefighters' axes - potential weapon - to be displayed in the concourse.
Prescott Valley Police Interim Chief James Edelstein said meetings for the memorial began July 3.
"We were honored and humbled to play a part in the memorial service, and our goal was to pay honor to those 19 heroes by accommodating their family and friends as best we could," Edelstein said.
He credited Commander Art Askew, Sgt. Scott Stebbins, Corporal Shawn Caswell, Officer Jeff Baker and Sgt. Brandon Bonney with assisting in the law enforcement arm of planning and operations for the Incident Management Team in Prescott.
Askew said his assignment was planning security, inside and out, designing a traffic plan for motorcades, and setting up parking. Caswell and the S.W.A.T. team set up main security, Baker made the traffic plan, Stebbins took over traffic control, and Det. Danny Eller and Matt Williams handled threat assessment and protestor security, he said.
"Those guys ran with it and it all went perfectly," Askew said.
He noted that Prescott Police Lt. Tim Fletcher, as leader of Prescott's law enforcement group, handed over ball to him when events moved to Prescott Valley.
"Lt. Fletcher and Officer Dave Fuller both helped with staffing needs, and 131 officers and civilian staff signed in to work the day of the memorial," Askew said. "More who didn't get to sign in at the briefing came and helped. Nearly every agency in the state had called and offered to help in any way, and many came to spend the day.
"There were no problems from anybody, no traffic issues. It's amazing how it all came together. Everybody did their jobs to make sure the event went flawlessly for the families and firefighters - to make this a worthy tribute."
Tarkowski indicated getting parking areas ready was a substantial job for Public Works Director Norm Davis and Operations Manager Ken Stanton.
"We mowed the Fain grazing lots for two days," he said.
Spiker mentioned that, as well.
"Ken Stanton was instrumental in making sure everything worked, where to park, and then it rained and changed things again," Spiker said.
After the service, Askew met Vice President Joe Biden.
"He said, 'I guess my coming here didn't make your job any easier.' I replied, 'No sir, it didn't, but it's an honor to have you here in Prescott Valley,'" Askew said.
The work didn't stop after Tuesday's memorial service. For example, Tarkowski said Public Works, PVPD and a California Hotshot crew loaded the Hotshot bronze statue, brought from Idaho for the service, and moved it to Prescott's Fire Station 7. Edelstein said the police department continues to help the families of the fallen.
Spiker said so many community members have stopped by to offer help, leave mementos and memorials, from ribbons to poems to give the families.
"It's so cool to see how the community came together, between Chino Valley, Prescott and Prescott Valley. I'm so thankful to have been part of it," Spiker said. "Somebody from California who was thinking of relocating, told me they now would like to move to this town, that this was the kind of place they wanted to live."
Coming soon to the Tribune: Central Yavapai Fire District's role.