Fallen Ariz. firefighters were in prime of their lives

4:52 AM, Jul 2, 2013   |    comments
Phoenix police honor guard members Eric Miller, left, and Daniel Durazo, right, salute the procession of vans carrying 19 firefighters killed at the Yarnell Hill Fire as they drive into the parking garage of the Maricopa County Medical Examiner in downtown Phoenix on Monday, July 1, 2013. (Photo: Michael Schennumm, The Arizona Republic)
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PRESCOTT, Ariz. -- Portraits of the 19 Prescott, Ariz., firefighters killed in the Yarnell Hill Fireemerged Monday as a grieving Arizona saluted their service and struggled to come to grips with the scope of the tragedy.

Some of the fallen members of the elite Granite Mountain Hotshots, 14 of whom were still in their 20s, hailed from firefighting families. Another young firefighter joined the team after his mother's cancer death. One balanced his passions of firefighting and ministry. Two others were cousins. Several were Marines.

At least three of the men who died have babies on the way.

HOW TO HELP: How you can help the Arizona firefighters' families

The firefighters' bodies were recovered and taken Monday to the Maricopa County Medical Examiner in Phoenix in a solemn caravan of white vans that was met by the Phoenix Police Honor Guard, a large American flag and two fire ladders stretched across the street.

The Yarnell blaze nearly annihilated the elite 20-member squad in the worst firefighting death toll in a wildfire since the Griffith Park Fire killed more than 25 volunteer firefighters in Los Angeles in 1933.

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer called the deaths "unbearable" and vowed to honor the service of the firefighters who died and "do whatever is necessary to bring this fire under control, before it causes any more hardship."

"Nineteen lives were lost - brave men who gave their lives to defend friends, neighbors and perfect strangers," Brewer said. "The Yarnell fire is the deadliest wildfire in Arizona state history and our nation's deadliest in 80 years. To friends and family of those lost yesterday (Sunday), I know we can never fully repay the sacrifices made by your loved ones."

The deaths prompted a dramatic public outpouring around the state. Makeshift memorials appeared at the hotshot crew's engine house and elsewhere around Yavapai County. A memorial was held at Prescott's Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and a vigil was held in downtown Phoenix.

Andrew Ashcraft

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