Granite Mountain Hotshots

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The granite mountain hotshots were a group dedicated to fight wildfires as a department within the Prescott Fire Department, Arizona. The Prescott Fire department was established in 1885, and it is the State o Arizona’s oldest fire department. It covers an area of 41.5 square miles (107km2), and as well serves a population of approximately 39843 people (Prescott, Webmaster).

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The Granite Mountain Hotshots on the other hand was founded in 2002 as a fuels mitigation crew, then in 2004 it transformed to a hand crew (Type 2 I/A). It ultimately transitioned to a hotshot crew in the year 2008. The crew obtained their own fire station (station 7), that was equipped with two carriers each with a carrying capacity of ten crew members. The film Only the Brave (2017) was based on the Granite Mountain Hotshots as well as the Yarnell Fire (Prescott, Webmaster).

The group of men who formed the Granite Mountain Hotshots who were trained experts in fighting wildfires that were out of control perished on the 30th of June, 2013 while fighting the Yarnell Hill Fire at the Northwest of Phoenix, Arizona. The wildfire can be considered as one of the deadliest in US’s recent history, the third deadliest after the 1991 East Bay hills fire that claimed the lives of 25 people; and the Northern California wildfires of 2017 that claimed the lives of over 40 people. It was driven by the fast-moving fierce winds that moved the fire fast that its turned and overran the crew, as reported by authorities, and cut them off from their evacuation route, as reported by a state forest division.

On the 28th of June, 2013 a wildfire was ignited by a lightening that struck the Bureau of Land Mnanegement land near Yarnell in Arizona. on the 30th of June, very strong winds that reahed almost 22 mph (35km/h) pushed the fires from 300 acres expanding to more that 2000 acres (Wang, Amy et al.). The fire spread of the fire was facilitated by a long term drought that had affected the area, hence spreading the fire rapidy and in an erratic manner, coupled up with the 101°F (38°C) temperatures of that time. The fire had spanned to over 8300 acres by June 1, prompting the nearby community of Peeples Valley to be evacuated.

On the fateful day 19 crew members of the Granite hotshots lost their lives as they tried to deploy shelters when the fire overtook them. This was after the temperatures had soared to over 2000°F. Sadly, they were not able to survive in deployment sites. The fallen heroes who died protecting the Yarnell and the neighboring community were honored with unique tribute, which was a hiking trail that climbs over 1000 feet up on the side of the mountain where they died on that day . 19 of the 20 Granite Mountain Hotshots crew members perished, and each of them is memorized along the rugged trail with a plaque (Santos, Fernanda).

 The lone survivor, 21-year- old Breendan McDonough had been serving as a lookout when the fire threatened to overwhelm his position. He was located by the Superintendent of the Blue Ridge Hotshots, Brian Frisby, who had been monitoring the radio communications the captain of the Granite Mountain and McDonough.  After being moved to safety, McDonough and the Blue Ridge Hotshots attempted to rescue the Granite Mountain Hotshots crew who had been entrapped in the fire, but their attempts were futile as they too were forced back by the flames and the immense heat of the fire. The then proceeded to evacuate the remaining residents who had not moved from the earlier attempts. “When the dead firefighters were found, several, at least, were outside their emergency shelters, which are designed to offer protection from intense heat for a short time and meant to be used only as a last resort. The authorities here were still trying to figure out why at the time” (Santos, Fernanda). This was the greatest loss of life for fire fighters on duty against wildfires since 1933 (Santos, Fernanda).

The 19 Men who lost their Lives

 Andrew Sterling Ashcraft, 29: described by his mother Deborah Pfingston as an “adventurer extraordinaire”, he is survived by his wife and four children; Robert E. Caldwell, 23; Travis Clay Carter, 31: whose wife of Krista of six years at the time and two children aged 6 and 3 at the time; Dustin James DeFord, 24: he had volunteered to fight fires at age 18 in Montana. He is survived by his 9 siblings; Christopher Alan Mackenzie, 30: described as a well –liked friend and son (Hannah, Jack, and Martin Savidge); Eric Shane Marsh, 43: the superintendent and the eldest of the Granite Mountain Hotshots crew: Grant Quinn Mckee, 21: cousin to Robert Caldwell who also a victim to the fire. He had aspired to become a paramedic for the local fire department; Sean Michael Misner, 26: is survived by his wife who was seven months pregnant with their first child at the time of his death. He became a firefighter to follow the steps of his grandfather who is a fighter (Santos, Fernanda).

There also was Scott Daniel Norris, 28: described as being wise beyond his years, an adventurer and comedian (Hannah, Jack, and Martin Savidge); Wade Scott Parker, 22; John J. Percin Jr., 24: described by his family as a brave and courageous man who would put other first with no hesitation(Santos, Fernanda): Anthony M. Rose, 23; Jesse James Steed, 36: survived by a wife and two children aged 3 and 4; Joe B. Thurston, 32: survived by a wife and two children: Travis Turbyfill, 27; William Howard Warneke, 25: survived by a wife who was pregnant with their first child at the time of his demise (Hannah, Jack, and Martin Savidge); Clayton Thomas Whitted, 28; Kevin J. Woyjeck, 21; and Garret Joseph Zuppiger, 27. (Hannah, Jack, and Martin Savidge).

Friends and family members as well as officials of these victims have endeavored to prserve their memories through the preservation of the ground that is now hallowed (CASTELLANO, ANTHONY, and Good America).

Did you like this sample?
  1. CASTELLANO, ANTHONY, and Good America. “19 Firefighters Killed In Arizona Wildfire.” 
  2. Hannah, Jack, and Martin Savidge. “Remembering One Of The Deadliest Wildfires In US History.” CNN, 2017.
  3. Prescott, Webmaster. “About The Prescott Fire Department – City Of Prescott, Arizona.” 
  4. Santos, Fernanda, a. “Lost In Arizona Fire, An Elite Crew That Rushed In.”
  5. Santos, Fernanda, b. The Fire Line: The Story Of The Granite Mountain Hotshots. 1st ed., Flatiron Books, 2016.
  6. Wang, Amy et al. “Yarnell Hill Fire Continues To Burn Out Of Control.”.
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