The Granite Mountain Hotshots are remembered as a jovial volunteer firefighting crew who died to protect the homes of those in potential danger during the Yarnell Hill fire of 2013. Since then, the fallen firefighters have been honored in multiple ways, from their local communities to blockbuster movies.
The Yarnell Hill Fire
The Yarnell Hill fire had begun on a Friday night in June of 2013. By Sunday, two days later, it roared. Nobody knew it at the time, but it was one of the deadliest wildfires to occur in the last decade. Not only was Arizona experiencing one of it’s worst droughts, but the dry chaparral was overgrown and hard to maneuver through.
The Yarnell fire was one of the first wildfires in the area in almost fifty years. The Granite Mountain Interagency Hotshot Crew, a team of expert firefighters within the Prescott fire department trained in unruly wild-land firefighting, were sent to the site. Unfortunately, they never returned.
The Fire Line by Fernanda Santos
The crew members were in an area that was supposed to be safe, baptized as the safety zone. It was also called “the black” area since it was already burned and unlikely to be burned again. Nineteen out of twenty of the hotshots were there deploying emergency fire shelters. But the wind wasn’t kind and pushed the fires onto the overgrown chaparral.
Some say that chaparral is “built to burn” because of how much fuel it can add to a fire. It burns at dangerous temperatures, is quick to catch flame, and is unforgivingly quick to spread. This day, the fire temperatures at the deployment site were over 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit. It overtook the firemen after it isolated them from their planned excavation route. The members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots gave their lives to protect those in danger.
In Memory of the Granite Mountain Hotshots
The members of the granite mountain hotshots are memorialized in the Granite Mountain Hotshots Memorial State Park. The park includes a hiking trail built for extreme adventurers, such as the fallen firefighters. The hiking trail travels over 1,000 up the side of the exact mountain that the crew members died on that day.
There are nineteen plaques along the hike to honor each team member. Further memorializing these men was the 2017 release, “Only the Brave.” It chronicles the stories of the many men who made up the Hotshot team and fought the flames so bravely.
Editor’s note: This article was originally published on December 2, 2019.