On June 30th, 19 firefighters made their last call to their families. This tragic gut-wrenching event in Yarnell, Arizona will forever be engraved in all our hearts.
The Granite Mountain Hotshots were a tight-knit family. One of the 20 firefighters, Brendan McDonough, nicknamed “Donut”, would even argue, “They’re more my brothers than my actual brother.”
Eight engines, structure-protection specialists, air tankers, and three hotshot crews, including the Granite Mountain Hotshot crew, were called out to the growing 100-acre Yarnell Hill Fire.
Eric Marsh, the Granite Mountain Hotshot superintendent, told his men as he always did before, to call their families and tell them they love them.
The Wildfire Contingency Plan
The plan was simple – Granite Mountain would build line on the fire’s Eastern edge while Blue Ridge, another hotshot crew, used chain saws to clear a path between the fire and Yarnell. If the winds changed direction, they had plans and were prepared to make snap decisions.
Alarmed Yarnell residents watched as VLATs, very large air tankers, flew overhead unloading 20,000 gallons of fire retardant between the flames and Peeples Valley.
Concerned the fire would pivot, Eric designated Donut to be the lookout. Eric’s concern became reality.
There was a drastic 180-degree wind shift with gusts of 60 miles per hour causing 10-foot flames to run directly towards Donut’s lookout spot.
Donut retreated to safety and Eric and the other 18 Hotshot firefighters were safe in the black ash, where the fire had burned the day before.
With conditions changing drastically, Eric decided for his crew to leave the black and head toward Yarnell to protect and try to save a few homes. The decision was tragic.
A Tragic Loss
The fire devoured Glen Ilah, Granite Mountain’s intended destination. With no exit, the 19 men were left with only one option – deploy their fire shelters.
After an hour and a half, a helicopter spotted the fire shelters and painfully radioed out, “I have 19 confirmed fatalities.”
The hotshots were removed the next morning, placed in body bags, and covered with American flags. Lone survivor, Brendan McDonough, and family members mourned their beloved husbands, brothers, and sons. Shoulder-to-shoulder, strangers prayed in 112-degree heat to honor the 19 fallen hotshots.
America’s Humble Heroes
We support our brothers and sisters that put their lives on the line every day. The Granite Mountain hotshots will be remembered for many years to come.