Arizona lowers state flags in honor of the Granite Mountain Hotshots
19 Arizona firefighters were killed by a fast-moving wildfire in 2013
PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) — Gov. Doug Ducey has ordered that flags on all state buildings be lowered to half-staff Thursday, marking nine years since 19 Granite Mountain Hotshots died fighting the Yarnell Hill Fire.
The fire started on June 28, 2013, when lightning struck a ridge west of the small town of Yarnell. Winds increased the next day, growing hundreds of acres in size. Firefighters from around the area responded, including the Granite Mountain Hotshots – a 20-man crew based within the Prescott Fire Department.
On June 30, the fire continued to spread and was threatening homes and other structures in nearby Peeples Valley and Model Creek. Later that afternoon, winds shifted and started pushing the fire back toward Yarnell.
The Granite Mountain Hotshots had been on the southwest perimeter of the fire and began heading southeast when winds increased and shifted again. The group of firefighters was unable to outrun the fast-moving flames and tried to set up fire shelters. It was too late and all 19 men were killed.
- Andrew Ashcraft, 29
- Robert Caldwell, 23
- Travis Carter, 31
- Dustin Deford, Dustin, 24
- Christopher MacKenzie, 30
- Eric Marsh, 43
- Grant McKee, 21
- Sean Misner, 26
- Scott Norris, 28
- Wade Parker, 22
- John Percin, 24
- Anthony Rose, 23
- Jesse Steed, 36
- Joe Thurston, 32
- Travis Turbyfill, 27
- William Warneke, 25
- Clayton Whitted, 28
- Kevin Woyjeck, 21
- Garrett Zuppiger, 27
“We found a way to go forward and that takes time and nine years is just a nice amount of time to move on from the trauma of it all,” Jerry Florman said. She lost her home to the Yarnell Hill Fire. “It was a great loss, it was a great loss, and at the time I thought it was the loss, but in just a couple of days the loss of 19 men sunk in much deeper and that was our loss.”
Prescott Fire Chief Hulger Durre was one of the many who paid homage to the fallen firefighters on Thursday. “Everyone in the City of Prescott somehow knew somebody on that hotshot team that died that day, and that can’t be understated. Because it is a community wide tragedy,” Durre said.
Marcie Theokas lost her grandson, Garrett Zuppigger. He was one of the 19 hotshots killed. “It”s not as raw but you don’t ever get over it,” she said. Theokas was one of the many family members who came out to the event. “He was a very generous, very loving, smart, he had business degree,” Theokas added.
Theokas said her grandson didn’t want a desk job, he wanted to serve. “It gave him a chance to give back to the community and he just loved that,” she explained.
The only Granite Mountain Hotshot to survive, Brendan McDonough, was acting as a lookout and not near the rest of the crew. He’s now a public speaker who works with various nonprofits.
In the years since the Yarnell Hill Fire, the Granite Mountain Hotshots Memorial State Park was dedicated in 2016. Then in 2019, the Granite Mountain Interagency Hotshot Crew (GMIHC) Learning and Tribute Center opened in Prescott. Read more about the men who lost their lives here.
Gov. Ducey released the following statement about the anniversary:
“Nine years ago, Arizona witnessed one of the most tragic wildfires in our state’s history. Nineteen brave firefighters lost their lives in a valiant effort to protect our communities. Their sacrifice will never be forgotten.
“The heroic Yarnell 19 knew the dangers of the job, and yet still put their lives on the line to ensure the safety of others and abide by their duty and commitment to our state. This week we remember them and send our thoughts and prayers to their families and loved ones who cared about them deeply.
“We also honor the firefighters who are currently fighting wildfires across the state. We are grateful for the bravery they put on display every day to defend the lives of Arizonans.”
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