Welcome to Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University here in beautiful Prescott, Arizona! You are probably quite overwhelmed by now, and rightly so. College is a whole new adventure for the entire family. Your teen children away from home for the first time will cause some anxiety, this we know for sure. But please rest easy and have faith you all made a wonderful decision to attend this fine university in a splendid town.

The community of Prescott and the surrounding area had a heart-breaking tragedy this summer. Still devastatingly fresh is the pain of losing nineteen of our twenty elite Granite Mountain Hotshot Firefighters and Rescue Agency in a wild land fire on nearby Yarnell Hill. These extraordinary men perished while protecting lives and property from a raging firestorm.

The Granite Mountain Hotshots are the fellows who work on the outskirts of the blaze to cut brush and clear the land so the looming fire has less undergrowth and branches to consume. These are the guys who routinely hike miles uphill through smoke and flames carrying heavy backpacks with chainsaws and shovels, then begin their long day to battle forest fires. The Granite Mountain Hotshots are an extraordinary group of men devoted to firefighting and to each other.

On June 30, 2013 while working on the border of the fire, the wind shifted in a split-second and the firefighters, unable to get away from the flames, deployed their emergency fire shelters for protection. Sadly, nineteen brave men lost their lives while defending others in Yarnell that day.

Embry-Riddle is home to the annual Arizona Wildland Fire Academy for a week-long event each spring. Firefighters from all over Arizona attend training classes, earning certificates in wildfire fighting techniques and heavy equipment. Up to 900 firefighters camp out at the university and have their meals at Earhart’s Dining Hall while making use of our classrooms for the entire spring break week. The firefighters are a familiar presence on the ERAU campus and a large part of our lives here at school.

Since this heartbreak, the Prescott community and many volunteers from Embry-Riddle have come together to assist the relatives of these fallen heroes in a tremendous show of love, support and gratitude. We gathered in concert to honor these men for their final measure of devotion. Our twentieth surviving Granite Mountain Hotshot is a sweet remembrance of tender mercies. Prescott has surrounded the wives and children of these nineteen fine men with thousands of arms full of tenderness and comfort.

Relax, good friends and students. You and your children have chosen wisely and are in caring hands here at Embry-Riddle. This precious town could not be any more compassionate or the school any more full of kindness and encouragement for our incoming freshman and returning students. We are Prescott Strong! Welcome!

 

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