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Families of 19 killed in Yarnell fire retrace the steps of fallen Hotshots

(AP Photo)

PHOENIX — Officials and family members of the 19 Hotshots who perished in the 2013 Yarnell Hill Fire retraced the steps taken by the firefighters on that fateful day as part of a “staff ride.”

The Daily Courier reports that the ride, which is more of a all-day multi-stop hike, provided insight and education for the group, and for one family member — closure.

“I’m very, very thankful I went,” Tom Ashcroft, a relative of one of the deceased said of the April 4-5 staff ride. “It was a turning point in my own healing process.”

The families’ involvement was a guideline in the settlement of a wrongful death lawsuit filed after the 19 firefighters died on June 30, 2013 while combating the blaze.

Arizona State Forester Jeff Whitney told the Courier that a staff ride is a multi-step process with origins in the military. First, an initial study of the incident or fire. Then comes an extensive field study of the actual sites of the fire. Finally, an opportunity for officials and other firefighters to “integrate the lessons learned from the fire into future firefighting efforts.”

Whitney said the family presence in the Yarnell Hill Fire staff ride was somewhat rare. This was part of the settlement reached between the family members and the state.

In February 2016, officials for the city of Prescott asked the public for input on a planned memorial to the Hotshots who died in the deadliest wildfire in Arizona’s recorded history.

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