Magazine article Parks & Recreation

A Memorial State Park to Honor 19 Granite Mountain Hotshots

Magazine article Parks & Recreation

A Memorial State Park to Honor 19 Granite Mountain Hotshots

Article excerpt

On the evening of Friday, June 28, 2013, lightning struck a hilltop above the town of Yarnell, Arizona, starting what would become known as the Yarnell Hill Fire. Early Sunday morning, June 30, the 20-member Granite Mountain Hotshots crew working the nearby Doce Fire, was deployed to the site.

After spending most of the day fighting the fire to save Yarnell, its people, property and land, at 4:15 p.m., the crew was pushed back by the fire toward a ridge overlooking the town. They headed down a steep ridge into a bowl canyon in an attempt to reach the safety of the nearby Boulder Springs Ranch. While they worked to reach the ranch, cutting through brush, cactus and trees up to 8-feet tall, the fire was working around their position. It trapped them within the bowl, forcing them to deploy shelters to wait it out.

Officials lost radio contact with the crew at 4:40 p.m. as the fire overtook their position and the lives of 19 of the 20 members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots. The 20th member, Brendan McDonough, was nearby, serving as the lookout, and survived. The fire subsided and word about the 19 fallen hotshots swept across the community, state and nation. Efforts began to preserve their legacy and honor their sacrifice.

Sixty Arizona state senators and representatives introduced House Bill 2624 during the 2014 legislative session, appropriating $500,000 for the purchase of the land at the site of the Yarnell Hill Fire. The bill required that a site board be created, consisting of family members, state and local agency representatives, and the director of Arizona State Parks. Together, the Yarnell Hill Memorial Site Board worked to develop a memorial park at the site where the Granite Mountain Hotshots perished.

Arizona State Parks officially purchased 308 acres of land June 30, 2015, to create Arizona's first memorial state park, the Granite Mountain Hotshots Memorial State Park, honoring the memory of the hotshots. The design team's vision began to take shape in late 2015 to create parking access, a 2.85-mile main trail leading to an observation deck, an additional .75-mile trail that leads from the observation deck down to the deployment site, and to protect and preserve the area where the Hotshots bravely made their last stand. Steel and stones now surround the barren earth the crew had cleared of vegetation. A quiet path and benches offer a space to reflect. The brush that once covered the basin is gone, exposing a rocky landscape. Mountains rise up and curl around the west while the resilient town of Yarnell lies to the east. …

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