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Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Arizona: Two Years Later Remembering The 19 Granite Mountain Hotshots Lost In The Yarnell Hill Fire #Prescott19

Prescott marks 2nd anniversary of Yarnell fire tragedy

 Granite Mountain Hotshot Memorial meme
In Memory of The #YarnellHillFire

"No words will ever fully convey our gratitude for these 19 heroes — we owe them a debt that can never be repaid," - Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey

Prescott 19 memorial
It is officially called Prescott Fire Station 7, but there is no mistaking which firefighters, exactly, called this place home. Their name is on the sign outside. Their black-and-orange logo is on the front door.

Open that door and see a narrow hallway with the letters G M I H S spelled out in black tiles set against white. It was crew tradition that rookies could not step on the black tiles until they had spent a year on the team known as the Granite Mountain Interagency Hotshots.

The firefighters working at Station 7 now have all worked there a year. But they still don't step on the black tiles.

"We'll never be Granite Mountain Hotshots," said Ronnie Gamble, who was hired two years ago after working as a hotshot on another crew. "We honor that rule. We'll never walk on the black tiles."

Gamble also fought the Yarnell Hill Fire, as part of the Blue Ridge Hotshots.

It was his team who picked up Brendan McDonough, the lone survivor of the Granite Mountain crew who was working as a scout some distance from the fire. The other 19 members of the Granite Mountain crew perished when they were overtaken by fire in a brush-filled canyon.

In the days following the deaths, the fire station became a shrine. People left objects — flags, cards, stuffed animals — along the fence around the station. Soon, the facility could not been seen for the mementos.

Those objects were removed, boxed and preserved for posterity. Slowly, the station became a workplace again.

The building now is the fire station for Gamble, his division chief and a crew of between two and 15, depending on the season. It is still a crew that fights wildfires by taking chainsaws and axes to dried trees and brush that could serve as fuel. They do it ahead of time when the sky is blue, not orange and filled with smoke.

"The work is very similar," he said. "There's just no fire."


Related News: At 11 a.m. Tuesday, representatives from the state parks department will gather at Prescott's Courthouse Square for a public auction.
They are interested only in one item: a 320-acre parcel of land nearby that encompasses the spot where 19 members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots died while fighting the Yarnell Hill Fire in 2013.
If all goes smoothly, the state parks department will formally purchase the land on the two-year anniversary of the firefighters' death. In doing so, they can then move forward with plans to create the Granite Mountain Hotshots Memorial State Park.
The Arizona State Parks Board last week unanimously adopted the new name for site, which will be the future home of a park that will pay tribute to the fallen firefighters, who died June 30, 2013.

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****REMINDER**** Every fire has the ability to be catastrophic. The wildland fire management environment has profoundly changed. Growing numbers of communities, across the nation, are experiencing longer fire seasons; more frequent, bigger, and more severe, fires are a real threat. Be careful with all campfires and equipment.
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