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Arizona fire deaths hit home for Montgomery Co. wildland firefighter

Tuesday - 7/2/2013, 4:38am  ET

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WASHINGTON - While the Arizona wildfires that killed 19 members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots happened thousands of miles away, the tragedy hits home for one Montgomery County paramedic.

Peggy Miller knows what it's like to battle a wildfire. A paramedic from Montgomery County, she's also a nationally-certified wildland firefighter and has traveled the country to battle flames.

"I've worked fires all over the United States and, you know, that crew in Arizona was a Hotshot crew and they are just incredible people and everybody is there because they want to be there," Miller said.

The members of the Hotshot crew died Sunday when a windblown wildfire swept through their path north of Phoenix. The 19 deaths mark the deadliest single day for U.S. firefighters since Sept. 11, 2001. More than 300 firefighters and paramedic died on Sept. 11, 2001.

Miller has not yet been deployed to assist with the Arizona wildfires, but it is a possibility, she said. While Miller said she loves her job, the danger that comes with it is never far from her mind.

"We all recognize that it's a dangerous and unpredictable business," said Miller, who has been a wildland firefighter for 14 years.

Losing the 19 firefighters — 14 of whom were in their 20s — is a crushing blow, Miller said.

"For us in the wildland firefighter community, this is a horrible, horrible loss."

WTOP's Kate Ryan contributed to this report. Follow @kateryanWTOP and @WTOP on Twitter.

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