Profile in Courage: The Firefighters

In June 2013, 19 Granite Mountain Hotshots lost their lives fighting one of the worst wildfires in American history.

By Daryl Chen
Also in Reader's Digest Magazine January 2014

Prescott FirefightersCourtesy of Prescott Fire
Pictured: The Granite Mountain Hotshots
For about four months every year, the elite Granite Mountain Hotshots ate, drank, and breathed fire. Based in Prescott, Arizona, the men logged 16-hour days battling the country’s worst wildfires. Yet despite their training and best efforts, on June 30—in the worst American firefighter tragedy since 9/11—19 Hotshots perished in a quick-shifting wildfire in Yarnell, Arizona (the crew’s 20th member, Brendan McDonough, was on lookout duty and survived). In their obituaries, he words passion and calling were used to describe the career they had all chosen. “They died doing what they loved,” says Darrell Willis, Prescott Fire Department Wildland Division Chief. Earlier this year, Eric Marsh, the superintendent of the Granite Mountain Hotshots crew, wrote an open letter to the town of Prescott to explain the crew’s dedication. “Why do we want to be away from home so much, work long hours, risk our lives, and sleep on the ground 100 nights a year?” he wrote. “Simply, it’s the most fulfilling thing any of us have ever done.” He concluded, “We are not nameless or faceless, we are not expendable, we are not satisfied with mediocrity, we are not quitters.” After their bravery, the Granite Mountain Hotshots will never be forgotten.

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