PHOENIX — On June 28, 2013, lightning struck a hilltop above the town of Yarnell, Arizona, starting the Yarnell Hill Fire. The 20-member Granite Mountain Hotshots crew was deployed to the site in the early morning hours on June 30.
The crew spent most of the day fighting the fire to save Yarnell, its people, its property, and its land. The fire pushed them back toward a ridge overlooking the town. While the crew worked to reach safety, the fire grew around their position and, ultimately, trapped them, forcing the crew to deploy shelters.
Officials lost radio contact with the crew as the fire consumed their position. It took the lives of the 19 Granite Mountain Hotshots. The last member, Brendan McDonough, who was serving as the nearby lookout, survived.
News about the 19 fallen hotshots swept across the community, state, and nation. Efforts to honor their sacrifice began soon after. State lawmakers passed legislation appropriating $500,000 for the purchase of the land at the site of the Yarnell Hill Fire. The legislation created a board consisting of family members, representatives from state and local agencies, and the Arizona State Parks Director.
Embracing the hotshots’ motto, Esse Quam Videri—“To be, rather than to seem”—the Yarnell Hill Memorial Site Board worked to develop the state’s first memorial park.
“These brave Americans gave the ultimate sacrifice protecting Arizona’s communities, people, and property,” said Governor Doug Ducey. “They deserve a lasting legacy to memorialize their heroism and sacrifices, along with that of all wildland firefighters who put their lives on the line to keep our state safe.”
Arizona State Parks officially purchased the 308 acres of land on June 30, 2015. The park was created in just over one year through the collaboration of dedicated state officials, a generous donation from Arizona Public Service Foundation, public donations, volunteers, and staff from Arizona State Parks.
The Granite Mountain Hotshots Memorial State Park will open to the public on November 30, 2016.
The trail to the memorial site requires a seven-mile round-trip hike. Along the trail are 19 stone plaques honoring each of the fallen Granite Mountain Hotshots and six interpretive signs that tell their story. Steel and stones now surround the barren earth to protect and preserve the area where the hotshots bravely made their last stand. A quiet path and benches offer a space to reflect.
“The families and the communities of Prescott and Yarnell have worked hand-in-hand with the state to develop Granite Mountain Hotshots Memorial State Park,” said Sue Black, Executive Director of Arizona State Parks. “We truly want the memorial to be a place for healing and to honor the lives and legacy of 19 hotshots.”
The State thanks the families and everyone involved for their support in creating a lasting memorial to remember the sacrifice that our firefighters make each and every day.
The 19 Granite Mountain Hotshots are:
Eric Marsh – Jesse Steed – Clayton Whitted – Robert Caldwell – Travis Carter – Travis Turbyfill – Christopher MacKenzie – Andrew Ashcraft – Joe Thurston – Wade Parker – Anthony Rose – Garret Zuppiger – Scott Norris – Dustin DeFord – William Warneke – Kevin Woyjeck – John Percin Jr. – Grant McKee – Sean Misner
Governor Ducey will attend a special dedication ceremony for the park on Tuesday, November 29, 2016.