With a treacherous wildfire less than 20 miles away from Flagstaff, volunteers from all over the state of Arizona have come out to lend a hand to contain the Slide fire.
Amongst the many people assisting with the Slide Fire are five former Northern Arizona football players — Drew Emanuel, Jake Hess, Andy Saldana, Bob Orrill and Parker Moore.
The fire began on May 20 and stretched 33.1 square miles near Slide Rock State Park, which is located between Flagstaff and Sedona. The fire forced families to evacuate their homes, with a Red Cross station being set up in Flagstaff. Heavy smoked filtered its way up the mountain, making it hard for residents to see and breathe.
“It’s rewarding when you see tangible evidence of these young men living their lives the right way,” said head coach Jerome Souers. “We always talk about doing things ‘the right way, every day,’ and it makes you smile when you know that some of our former players are out there protecting us and putting their lives on the line.”
Just recently, Emanuel was fighting tackles on the football field, and now he’s suited up to take on a wildfire.
When asked about his experience, Emanuel simply replied, “What you call being a hero, I call doing my job; fighting the fire and protecting the lives of others.”
Emanuel has joined up with Hess as they work on the same crew out of the Flagstaff Fire Department.
Saldana, who has been a member of the Mormon Lake Hotshot Crew for the past two years, also assisted with the Slide fire.
“I’m glad that I was able to help save as many homes as we did,” Saldana said. “It’s always good to be able to make a difference and protect the place many people call home.”
As of Sunday afternoon, the fire, which has been burning for more than a week, was roughly 90 percent contained.
“I think they’re incredibly courageous, they’re determined, and it’s clear they’ve chosen to live their lives with honor and integrity,” Souers said. “If we’ve had a small part in helping them along the way it makes everyone in the program feel good because that’s what makes this business special. Initially, I’ll always get a little worried because I care a lot about those guys, but then I remember that they were special kids who have become exceptional men, and they make us all very proud.”
SWIM AND DIVE
The Northern Arizona swimming and diving team took another step toward filling the void left by its decorated graduated senior class with the addition of three incoming freshmen who signed their National Letters of Intent during the spring signing period.
The Lumberjacks received commitments from a pair of international swimmers and an elite diver from California to further reload their WAC Championship squad heading into the fall.
NAU’s diving unit will take a hit with the graduation of Gwen Smithberg and Jane Wakefield, but the Lumberjacks add an important piece to their contingent in Emma Simmonds out of Castaic, Calif. Simmonds was a four-year letterwinner and two-year team captain at West Ranch High School where she enjoyed an accomplished prep career.
Simmonds was a three-time CIF diver and became the first diver at her high school to win the league championship, an accomplishment she achieved twice in her career along with a runner-up finish.
“Emma will be able to score points for us right off the bat,” said diving coach Nikki Huffman. “She comes from a really good program — Rose Bowl Aquatics — where one of her coaches, Hunter Shafer, was an NAU alum. It’ll be nice to get her here and she is a great talent.”
The Lumberjack distance crew lost one of the program’s all-time greats in Emma Lowther, but it found a fellow swimmer from New Zealand to ease the loss. Kimberly Richter will join the Lumberjacks out of Howick College, the same prep school as Lowther, and will have the opportunity to contribute in the freestyle distance events immediately. The Papakura, Auckland, native was a National Age Group swimming medalist with best times of 2:05.5 in the 200 free, 4:19.6 in the 400 free and 8:54.8 in the 800 free while also swimming the 100 and 200 butterfly events. In 2012, she was part of the women’s 4x200m freestyle relay silver medal team at the New Zealand Open Championships with Lowther.
“Kimmy is going to step in and help out in the more distance-oriented freestyle events and she could see some 200 fly swims during the season,” Johns said. “She is coming from the same club team as Emma and Rachel (Palmer), so we have a strong connection there and we’re excited to have another swimmer from Auckland joining the squad.”
To help their sprint crew, the Lumberjacks will add Alina Staffeldt to the roster. Staffeldt, out of Hannover, Germany, will improve the team’s depth in the butterfly events and join Alexis Juergens who earned two top-eight finishes at the WAC Championships. She holds the SGS Hannover Swim Club long course and short course records in the 50 fly, 100 fly and 200 fly as well as the 50 fly short course record in Lower Saxony.
“Alina is a sprinter in the butterfly and freestyle, so with Alexis and even (fall signee) Samm Crocker, we’ve gotten stronger in the sprint events which should help our relays,” Johns said. “We think we got a good one in her. She’s kind of like Andrea Derflinger, but she’s better at the sprints whereas Andrea was better at the 200.”