PHOENIX — Nineteen Granite Mountain Hotshot firefighters died in Yarnell, northwest of Phoenix, on June 30, 2013 when a sudden wind shift from a nearby thunderstorm caused the Yarnell Hill fire to overrun them in a canyon.
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey ordered flags on all state buildings to to fly at half-staff Thursday from sunrise to sunset in honor of the Granite Mountain Hotshots.
The lone survivor of the crew, Brendan McDonough, recently told KTAR he can’t believe it has been three years since he lost 19 friends he considered brothers.
“Feels like it was just last year, just last summer since it happened,” he said.
When the tragedy occurred, McDonough was a 21-year firefighter known by his fellow Hotshots as “Donut.”
He was separated from his fellow firefighters because he was acting as a lookout or he certainly would have been among the casualties.
The Yarnell Hill Fire was the largest loss of life among firefighters since the Sept. 11 attacks.
McDonough went through seven months of intense counseling and among the reasons was that he wanted to return to firefighting.
“I’ve come to the conclusion that I don’t think it’s something I’ll ever be able to do. I don’t know if I feel comfortable with going back,” he said.
McDonough tries to stay in touch with as many of the victims family members as he can but feels he’s still viewed as a painful reminder of what happened.
He released a memoir called “My Lost Brothers: The Untold Story by the Yarnell Hill Fire’s Lone Survivor” earlier this year.
Last Sunday was the 26th anniversary of the Dude Fire, which killed six members of a Perryville Prison firefighting crew north of Payson.
That fire destroyed 60 homes, including the historic cabin of author Zane Grey.