PRESCOTT, Ariz. – Nearly a year in the making, a center honoring the Granite Mountain Hotshots is scheduled to open to the public Friday, giving those who visit the opportunity to remember the Yarnell 19 and learn how to prevent another tragedy like this from happening again.
Pictures of their last moments alive lead to the men themselves—the 19 smiles of husbands, fathers and sons.
John Marsh is chairman of the Granite Mountain Interagency Hotshot Crew Learning and Tribute Center board. His son, Eric Marsh, or “Papa” as he was known, was the crew’s leader.
“The last time we spoke was Father’s Day and he said have a nice day,” Marsh remembered.
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Marsh said the opening of the center wasn’t easy.
“It’s a reminder of the tragedy and brings it back afresh, but it’s also gratifying,” Marsh said.
Marsh explained it was rewarding to know people from all over the world have a place to learn about the firefighters.
Board member Diane Clevenger gave 12 News a tour around the center.
“Each one of the hotshots would put on this whiteboard how they felt -- now, some of them did not use their regular name,” Clevenger said.
Clevenger showed the nicknames and jokes printed on the board on the day they lost their lives fighting the Yarnell Hill Fire side-by-side on June 30, 2013. Each was a unique piece adding laughter to a one-of-kind brotherhood puzzle.
T-shirts from departments hung as they once did outside the crew’s home base—station seven.
Prescott Fire Department Division Chief Don Devendorf said the center was about more than remembrance.
“If people can do things like One Less Spark One Less Wildfire or Firewise, any of those programs decrease fire intensity and make it safer for firefighters,” Devendorf said.
Devendorf explained the center will give the public the opportunity to learn about the tragic perfect storm the men faced that day, when the wind turned the flames back onto them and how these husbands, fathers and sons made a difference.
Yarnell Hill Fire, June 2013
Marsh said though it was hard to relive the loss of his son, he has had the chance to get to know him and his brothers better over the last five years by connecting with their families and had a message for the crew.
“I’m proud of what these guys do, what you’ve been able to do in your life and we hope that these hotshots from Granite Mountain have made a difference in people’s thoughts and thinking,” Marsh said.
Center volunteers said it will be a new experience every six to eight months, as they cycled through the thousands of donations and memorabilia stored in the back.
You can click here for hours of operation and more information.