Croatian runs in Yarnell to honor 19

Jasmina Kadija of Croatia crosses the finish line of the Yarnell Memorial Run on Saturday. The firefighter traveled from Europe to run in the 19k in memory of 19 Granite Mountain Hotshots killed in the line of duty in 2013.

By David Zambrano

Reporter/Photographer

The fifth annual Yarnell Memorial Run attracted approximately 600 participants from across the country and around the world, and this year one came all the way from Croatia.

Each year, the run is hosted in memory of 19 Granite Mountain Hotshots who lost their lives on June 30, 2013, while fighting the Yarnell Hill Fire.

The run began in 2014 as a 5k and has increased in size with each passing year to now include a 5k, 10k and 19k, as well as a virtual run. Every year, more people participate to show their appreciation and respect for firefighters. This year, Jasmina Kadija, a 36-year-old firefighter from Zagreb, Croatia, made the trip to Yarnell for the June 1 run. Kadija said she is the first woman professional firefighter in her country. And she has seen the worst.

“In 2007 we had something similar, 12 of our firefighters died, and only one survived, so I know how it feels. And because firefighters don’t know borders, and we are all brothers and sisters, so I came to do the run for them,” Kadija said. To honor the 19 Granite Mountain Hotshots, she ran the 19k (11.8 miles) in her wildland firefighter’s uniform known as “turnout gear.”

Kadija said it took nine years for her to  become a member of the fire brigade, and it was extremely difficult. Because she was a woman, she was always being watched and often had to perform better than the men, she said.

“In Croatia it’s different. When you’re a firefighter, you will do everything from structural fires to wildland fires. So because the 19 ran to the fire here, it is an honor for me to run the 19k for them,” Kadija said.

Close to 500 runners participated on foot, and another 100 took part by signing up online and running the distance in another location. Monies raised from the run benefit Yarnell Fire District which then shares a portion of the proceeds with the William H. Warneke Foundation, and the Eric Marsh foundation for wildland firefighters, according to YFD spokesperson Denise Roggio. This year the run raised about $16,500, she said.

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