WIGGINS, MS (WLOX) - Firefighters across the country are rallying around the U.S. Forest Service to offer their help and prayers. Several members of the U.S. Forest Service said they are truly amazed at the outpouring of support.
They say much like law enforcement, there's a powerful bond among firefighters who are all feeling a sense of loss.
Flags flew at half-staff at the Wiggins Fire Department Tuesday, a somber reminder of two lives lost in a tragic helicopter crash in Harrison County Monday.
"I think everybody's heartbroken, and it doesn't matter who is it or how it happened, it was just a man out doing his job," said Wiggins Fire Chief Jody Hatten.
Hatten said he knew one of the victims, Steve Cobb of Wiggins. He said Cobb often answered the call to fight wildfires in Mississippi and other parts of the country.
"He's made a good career out of it and just hate to hear that it's somebody like that that's been so passionate about their job and their duties," said Hatten.
"He was doing what he loved and they all were," said Danny Bryant, a U.S. Forest Service Fire Staff Officer.
Bryant said his crews conduct prescribed burns quite often this time of year.
"We all, in the back of our minds, know that there's a risk with that with the helicopters, but we never think it's going to happen to anyone we know," said Bryant. "It was definitely a feeling of shock, surprise, concern, sadness, a gamut of emotions."
Bryant said the phone calls, text messages, and words of comfort pouring in from fire departments across the country and along the coast will help with the healing process.
"It affects everybody. They're brothers in firefighting also. It hits close to home, especially being here in South Mississippi. It's one big brotherhood," said David Queal with the Harrison County Fire Service.
It is a brotherhood that's ready to respond when one of their own is grieving.
"We try to stick together as a family and support each other no matter what it is, because we all have to be a team," said Hatten.
"It's been amazing the support and the phone calls and the text messages that we've gotten from the southern area, not just Mississippi, but all over the south. I even received a phone call from a person in Oregon offering support and any help they could provide, and it's a real tight-knit community in wild land fire," said Bryant.
The firefighters say they've formed their own support system, and grief counselors are also available to help them cope with this tragedy.
"It puts that reminder back in our head that we're not promised tomorrow. We have to be careful each and every day of what we're doing. Be conscious of our surroundings and how precious life is," said Hatten.