PRESCOTT, Ariz. - Four years ago Friday, 19 firefighters were killed in the Yarnell Hill Fire when they were overrun by flames.
The Granite Mouuntain Hotshots deployed their fire shelters at 4:42 p.m. on June 30. A few hours later, the announcement would come that all 19 had died after their escape route had been cut off and the fire headed toward them.
Friday at exactly 4:42, the bells at the courthouse square in Prescott rang 19 times, one for each firefighter, as hundreds gathered to pay their respects.
"It was just a tragedy beyond anything I was able comprehend," Russ Pilcher said as he sat with a "thin red line" flag. The flag, a black and white American flag with a single red stripe, is meant to symbolize the work and sacrifice of firefighters everywhere.
“I have a great regard for those who sacrificed their lives for the benefit of us," Pilcher said.
June Payne was in the front of the crowd, waiting for the bells to sound. She has a home a few miles away from Prescott.
"When they said all 19 perished, it was like a nightmare," Payne said.
The families and friend of the Granite Mountain Hotshots were in Phoenix during the bell ceremony.
The buggies used to transport the firefighters to the Yarnell Fire have been donated to fire museums. One arrived at the Hall of Flame museum in Tempe Friday afternoon. The second will go to a museum in California.