By Oliver Davis
Social Media Coordinator
In late June 2013, a wildfire was started near Yarnell, Ariz. by a lightning strike. The fire quickly spread and soon consumed over 8,000 acres of forest.
Hundreds of firefighters responded to this large fire and were slowly battling the raging flames.
One of the teams to respond was the Granite Mountain Hotshots, who were from Prescott.
Due to a combination of an extended drought in the area and high-speed winds, the fire became unpredictable and moved erratically and rapidly.
19 of the 20 Granite Mountain Hotshots were entrapped by the flames that were traveling at over 15 miles per hour.
On June 30, those 19 men were confirmed dead in what was later reported to be the greatest loss of life in Arizona history as well as one of the deadliest wildfires in U.S. history.
This tragic event that took the lives of many brave men made headlines across the nation and told of the dangers involved in firefighting.
Since the summer of 2013, many memorials have been made in remembrance of the heroes who gave their lives to ensure the safety of those around them.
A state park was dedicated to the Hotshots, and many memorials can be found all around Prescott and other places in Yarnell and Peeples Valley.
In October 2017, a movie was released portraying the events that led up to the loss of life during the Yarnell Hill Fire. “Only the Brave” featured Josh Brolin, Miles Teller, Jeff Bridges, and several other big-name actors.
The film was well-received by critics and was praised for its tribute to the men who died in the fire.
Although the majority of the film locations were in New Mexico, several scenes show views of Prescott and one scene takes place in a local downtown bar.
The month before the Yarnell Hill Fire, the smaller Doce Fire was approaching Granite Mountain, just north of Prescott. Doug Hulmes, a Prescott College professor, alerted the Hotshots of a historic alligator juniper tree that was near the fire.
The Hotshots went to the tree, which is the oldest known juniper, and made sure to save it from the flames.
A photo of the team forming a human pyramid in front of this tree is frequently shown when honoring the firefighters.
On Oct. 21, Hulmes, who personally knew several of the Hotshots, spoke at a special premiere of the film in Prescott that was dedicated to the 19 men who died in the fire.
While most students at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University are not from Prescott, it is easy to feel a connection to the story that has a large part in the history of this town.
“Only the Brave” is a very moving film that brings viewers to sympathize with the firefighters who sacrificed their lives for the safety of others.
Take time to see this film, or to even visit some of the memorials around Prescott, including at the top of Thumb Butte, near Goldwater Lake, and at the square downtown.