Ashley Rodrigue / Eyewitness News
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MANDEVILLE- Seven firefighting recruits are well on their way to becoming the Mandeville area's newest first responders. But news Monday of the tragic deaths of 19 elite firefighters in Arizona gave them something to think about.

'It's scary, it's a reality check,' said Randy Mammelli, 'Every day you go to work, you never know what's going to happen. You could have nothing going on or you could be put in a situation where you're putting your life on the line for somebody you don't know.'

For the longtime firefighters training the new ones, the loss is heavy.

'It's sad, especially when you lose 19, 20 people at one time,' said David Murden, a St. Tammany Fire Dist. 4 training officer. That's basically a whole department for some departments.'

'We're all kind of a big family even though we're competitive,' said St. Tammany Fire District #4 Chief Merrick Tassin said, 'All the firefighters, when we get to a scene we all work together really hard. We all understand what it takes to put your life on the line and so when you lose a brother or a sister in the fire service, it's extremely devastating.'

And even though the situation is unfortunate, these firefighter hopefuls say this is an opportunity to learn what's really at stake.

Mammelli said, 'It's part of the job. You get to do some really great things, see things, do things not the average person gets to do, but it has its costs in that you do risk your life sometimes.'

Tassin said, 'We try to train, we try to prepare, we develop strategies and tactics to keep our personnel safe, but you have situations that change that are beyond your control, such as Mother Nature.'

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