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Families Worry About Utah Civilians in Iraq

Families Worry About Utah Civilians in Iraq

Posted - Nov. 17, 2004 at 4:52 p.m.



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John Hollenhorst ReportingThe apparent murder in Iraq of a civilian hostage from England underlines the fact that it isn't just soldiers who are at risk. In fact, three civilian firefighters from a tiny town in Northern Utah are in Iraq while their families are at home worrying.

In a small-town like Corinne, a $90,000 a year job is a tempting offer.

Noelle Christensen, Corinne Resident: “It’s alright money. It’s not great, super money. But it’s better than what we’ve ever made.”

It's the main reason three members of the Corinne Volunteer Fire Department took off to fight fires in Iraq. Two wives are staying in touch by e-mail.

Shantelle Higgins, Corinne Resident: “Yeah, thy went together and they’re actually in the same department now, together.”

They're working in Baghdad, in a fire department run by Wackenhut, a military support company. All their work is inside an American military compound.

Shantelle Higgins: “They’re over there to help the military.”

Both men left kids home -- Jim Higgins has four, Larry Christensen has one daughter.

Noelle Christensen: “He kind of had it in his head that he really wanted to do it, and so I just said, ‘All I can do is support him.’”

They left Corrinne just five or six weeks ago, and already the wives, and to some degree the husbands, are having second thoughts.

Shantelle Higgins: “Oh yeah, I know Jim’s had second thoughts.

Noelle Christensen: “So’s mine.”

Shantelle Higgins: “It’s not worth it, it’s really not.”

Their compound is relatively secure, but the men live in flimsy trailer homes.

Noelle Christensen: “I worry about the mortar attacks. But if I worry about it too much, then it will just drive me crazy.”

Shantelle Higgins: “What he tells me, there’s more danger over there than we actually thought he was going into. There really is.”

The firefighters are under contract for a year. They could leave if they really wanted, but they don't, partly because of duty and patriotism.

Noelle Christensen: “It eases the load off the military. And they’re there to do things that the military doesn’t need to worry about. Some of the military guys can come home and see their families.”

Barring some miracle, the firefighters will not be home for Christmas.

The third Corinne firefighter in Iraq is Jim Norr. Craig Montgomery of Brigham City also signed up, and works for Halliburton in the war zone.

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