Safety officer assesses risk at Burro Fire - Tucson News Now

Safety officer assesses risk at Burro Fire

Jim Mackensen, Fire Safety Officer. (Source: Tucson News Now) Jim Mackensen, Fire Safety Officer. (Source: Tucson News Now)
TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

The record-breaking temperatures in southern Arizona and heat safety are likely on the minds of firefighters working the Burro Fire in the Catalina Mountains.

It's absolutely on the mind of Jim Mackensen. 

The U.S. Forest Service Fire Safety Officer does his due diligence at each fire to which he's been assigned for the last 15 years.

"We kind of sit back and ask, 'what if?' What if this happens? What if that happens? How are we going to respond? How are we going to get somebody out if they get hurt?' That type of stuff. Is what we're doing worth the risk? Is the risk that we're taking worth the gain?" Mackensen said.

It's a heavy burden to carry. As heavy as the total sum of safety supplies that each firefighter carries on their back. That includes first aid kits, water, and 6,000 calories of food that firefighters are given each day.

The Burro Fire has burned more than 26,000 acres, northeast of Tucson, since it started on Friday, June 30.

As it continues to burn one week later, Mackensen said he tries his best to not be the overprotective parent.

"We're accused of that from time to time," he said. "These guys are professional. They know what they're doing. They know what has to be done. They know the job that has to be done and they just need to pace themselves. They can't go at it as fast as they would on a fire in heavy timber or something like that where it's all shaded and nice and cool and mountain breezes. It's out in the desert. It's very different."

He has faith, like a father, that his firefighters are trained well - trusting that each man and woman his team sends up the mountains comes back down safely.

"I hate pulling my Class-A uniform out of the closet," Mackensen said, referring to his formal outfit. "We've been to too many funerals. We've known too many friends that have had a career-ending injury or fatality. I don't like it. I want to do what I can to prevent that."

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