We have all
had cause to be more aware of the dedication of our firefighters. For
ten years, United Fire has been proud to recognize an individual Arizona
firefighter whose outstanding achievements typify the best in the
state’s fire service community. Those qualities include a commitment
to benefit the community, the courage to carry out the firefighter’s
mission, and the compassion needed to serve in a caring way. In a year
inflicted by so many furious fires that has brought the dedication of
America’s firefighters to the forefront of our consciousness, we are
pleased to honor a firefighter who represents the best qualities of
The 2003 United Fire
Firefighter of the Year is Rick Lupe,
of the Bureau of Indian Affairs Fort Apache Station. Mr.
Lupe was a Hotshot Firefighter for twenty years, eventually becoming a
Hotshot Supervisor and recently a Fuels Management Specialist. Rick took
the threat of fire personally and he fought his "war on fire"
many times in Arizona. The most memorable, and what cemented his name in
the mind of the average Arizona citizen, was his heroic effort during
the Rodeo-Chediski fire. This fire consumed 469,000 acres and caused the
evacuation of 30,000 people.
Rick knew that a fire
line in Hop Canyon would be the "last line of defense" if
there was going to be any hope of stopping the raging fire from
destroying the town of Showlow. Along with his fellow
"hotshots", Rick fought tirelessly using his legendary
intellect and skills for every inch of land. Using a bulldozer they
created the fire line that stopped the fire from crossing Highway 60 and
burning into the town.
Rick was honored for his bravery and relentless determination. Through
it all, he took little credit for himself, and often turned the
attention to the work of his team and the hundreds of other fireman that
all worked together to bring this fire under control.
last fire was the Sawtooth prescribed burn. Although finding
himself in "extraordinary" circumstances, he radioed
for his crew to "get back into the black", a safe
place to protect themselves. Unfortunately, that fire took his
life on June 19th of this year. He fought the injuries he
sustained from that fire for 5 weeks, longer than anyone
expected, longer than anyone could imagine.
United Fire and
our judges were not the only ones who see Rick as a hero.
The United States Congress passed a congressional resolution
honoring him for his long and essential service in fighting
wildfires and caring for the environment, and for ultimately
sacrificing his life for the people of Arizona.
a statement Congressman Rick Renzi said: "Arizona lost a
true hero in Rick Lupe. This loss comes at a time when his
knowledge was needed most to help preserve and protect our
forests and rural communities from the summer fires. His legacy
lives on through the spirit of those he worked with and through
those whose lives he saved."
Courage is grace under pressure. Every man's life ends the same
way. It is only the details of how he lived and how he died that
distinguishes one man from another. Rick’s life is
distinguished, and he will always be remembered for his
accomplishments as a firefighter, as well as a father, a husband
and a friend.
loss of Rick’s life does not diminish the accomplishments that
he achieved. We are very proud to present the 2003 United Fire
Firefighter of the Year Symbol of Excellence Award
to the family of Rick Lupe!
Lupe - Roy Hall - Danny Nelson
Rodeo Fire 2002
Fort Apache Station Hotshots