Renton

Brother of fallen firefighter: 'Jesse loved his job very much'

Brother of fallen firefighter: 'Jesse loved his job very much' »Play Video
Jesse Steed with his wife, Desiree and their two children, Caden and Cambria. Photo courtesy of Cassidy Steed.
SEATTLE -- When wildfires make a sudden and dangerous change against firefighters, the crews are trained to quickly deploy and crawl into what looks like a mini aluminum foil pup-tent, similar to what 19 firefighters had done in the moments before their deaths fighting a raging fire near Yarnell, Arizona Sunday.

It's a shelter some say, at best, offers a 50-percent chance of survival.

Albert Kassel has many years of experience teaching Washington state fire crews when and how to reach for that life line.

"Our shelters that we use are for last resort, and it's part of our training," Kassel said. "And we all learn and train and we hope we never have to use 'em."

Jesse Steed was one of the Arizona firefighters killed in Sunday's fire. His brother, Cassidy Steed, is a Renton police officer.

Cassidy released a statement Monday confirming his brother's death and speaking about his character.

"Jesse has always put his life on the line for people who he knew he would never meet. He sacrificed time with his family and his own personal interests. Jesse loved his job very much as his family supported him with every sacrifice he made for it," the statement reads.

Cassidy said his brother spent the last two years as the captain of the Granite Mountain Hot Shot Firefighters. Prior becoming a firefighter, Cassidy said Jesse served in the Marine Corps.

"All of Jesse's crew also gave the ultimate sacrifice. Now there are 19 families who are as grief-stricken and numb from their recent loss as I am," he said in the statement.

One of the worst forest fire tragedies before Arizona, happened in 2001 just outside Winthrop, Washington

Squad boss Thomas Taylor survived the fast-spreading flames of the Thirtymile Fire -- flames that claimed four of his friends.

Taylor spoke about that terrible day in a training video.

"The moment I entered my shelter, I was hit with intense heat and wind and instantly overcome with fear and terror," Taylor said. "If I stay in my shelter I will die. If I choose to leave my shelter I will die. But I can't give up."

Thomas left his shelter, ran downhill, and dove into a nearby river -- a decision that saved his life.

"There's no real reason i should be standing here talking to you right now," Taylor siad.

The Thirtymile Fire led to a renewed emphasis on safety training and ignited controversy when the government filed manslaughter charges against the victims' crew boss for the decisions he made that day.

Local firefighters won't speculate about what happened in Arizona, they say it's a time of mourning, not second-guessing.

"We really do feel for what's going on down south because we are all part of one large family," Kassel said.

Cassidy Steed and a friend have set up a fund to raise money for the families of the Arizona firefighters. Anyone who'd like to donate to the fund can do so here.