YARNELL, Ariz. — It may be the last image of members of an Arizona fire
crew before they died, overcome by flames.
The photo shows smoke billowing in the distance and firefighters covered in
soot as they took a break and watched their target on the horizon.
At the time, its significance was small, part of a text exchange between a man
and his wife.
“This is my lunch spot … too bad lunch was an MRE,” read the text message
from Andrew Ashcraft to his wife, Juliann. It was a “meal ready to eat,”
carried along on trips by Hotshot crews.
Later that day, the 19 firefighters deployed their emergency shelters, a
last-ditch effort to save their lives. It wasn’t enough. All of them died in the
The Hotshot crews are the best of the best, filled with adventure-seekers whose
hard training prepares them for the worst.
Ashcraft was honored to be a member of the Hotshot crew, friends said, but he
lived for his four kids and his wife.
He’d bring them to the gym where many of the crew worked out, said Janine
Pereira, a trainer at Captain Crossfit.
“He’d carry her around sometimes and give her a kiss in front of all his
guys,” she said.
Now a plaque bears his name _ and 18 others who left behind wives, children,
friends _ outside the crew’s fire station.
For volunteer, fundraising and other ways to assist those affected by the Yarnell Hill Fire, go to yarnellfallenfirefighters.com.