Key evidence that could explain why the Granite Mountain Hotshots moved from a safe location into a treacherous box canyon where 19 men died on … The book is part of it, he told The Arizona Republicon Friday, saying he hopes people who struggle with addiction, grief and PTSD realize there's hope for a better life. "...May the wind be always at your back...". The board is considering a request from Juliann Ashcraft, the widow of one of the Granite Mountain Hotshots who died last year, for full survivor and retirement benefits even though her … If you are interested in booking him for a speaking event please visit the link below. All wildfires can become dangerous. They were nature conservationists, athletes and above all, firefighters. Asked if he did all he could have, he insisted, "There's nothing I could've done besides have been up on the hill with them and someone else been in my position, to have been with them and died in my boots with them. A harrowing and redemptive tale of resilience in the face of tragedy, My Lost Brothers is also a powerful reminder of the heroism of the people who put themselves in harm’s way to protect us every day. The movie is a stirring dramatization, directed by Joseph Kosinski, based on a nonfiction account in GQ by Sean Flynn (and co-produced by Condé Nast Entertainment), of the real-life activities of the Granite Mountain Hotshots, heroic fighters of wildfires in Arizona. A male using the callsign Granite Mountain 7 came up on the radio, who was almost unintelligible and "sounded excited and out of breath," according to statements by state rescue workers. We've got 19 dead firefighters up on the hill. "I can see them in my head, playing with their kids," he said, pausing as his heart filled with emotion over the losses. And he is determined not to let down the families of the Nineteen, either. Brendan is part of The Greater Talent Network Speakers Bureau. He went from drugs and jail, to joining The Granite Mountain Hotshots, a new beginning that saved him for a time. Inside the Granite Mountain Hotshots' station house in Prescott, in his first visit only weeks after the catastrophic loss, McDonough felt at ease -- enough to reveal his deep pain over not being with his friends, who were all like family to him, when they died in their boots. "I never questioned them before, why should I question them now? Why aren't they sitting here with me?'" Nineteen firefighters from the Granite Mountain Hotshots lost their lives in the 2013 wildfire in Yarnell, Ariz. Brendan McDonough is the crew’s sole survivor. Today he is a public speaker and works with numerous nonprofits for veterans, police officers, firefighters, and emergency medical services. PHOENIX — Brendan McDonough survived one of the deadliest wildfires in U.S. history, an inferno near Yarnell, Ariz., that killed 19 of his fellow Granite Mountain Hotshots on June 30, 2013. By John Dougherty. "...Until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of His hand.". "Jesse Steed, my captain, said, 'All right, I'll see you soon.' Granite Mountain Hotshots team leader Eric Marsh radioed through to let his commanders know the group had a predetermined safety zone. "I can't fail them. The 19th dead firefighter was from another group. What led to the deaths of the experienced team of firefighters remains under official investigation by Arizona, whose deputy state forester Jerry Payne caused an uproar last week by publicly blaming the crew's slain leader Eric Marsh for violating firefighting rules. Instead of moving north, it started moving south as the flame front leapt from 25 to 50 feet high. is the lone survivor of the Yarnell Hill fire tragedy of 2013. The Helms were among the first to find out that a crew of 19 firefighters had died nearby. But at first, this one on a boulder-strewn hillside at 5,000 feet outside the small town of Yarnell, Ariz. seemed nothing out of the ordinary to the team of dogged firefighters dispatched in their white fire buggies that fateful day from nearby Prescott. By the time McDonough and the other Hotshots arrived in Yarnell on June 30, airtankers had already been dropping chemical retardant to slow the spread of the fire -- to no avail. McDonough was the only survivor of Sunday's disaster. Based on the true story of the Granite Mountain Hotshots, a group of elite firefighters who risk everything to protect a town from a historic wildfire. The structural firefighting mentality “is dangerously seeping into the wildland realm and needs to be stopped,” Schoeffler warned. A harrowing tale of resilience in the face of tragedy, My Lost Brothers is a powerful reminder of the heroism of the people who put themselves in harm’s way to protect us. He has attended every funeral and visited each of the Nineteen's families. I can't stop trying because I feel like they somewhat look to me because I'm the only one left," he said. \"Ma'am,\" he said. Chore lists, fitness goals and duty rosters with the 20 Hotshots' names still were tacked to walls. ... Christopher MacKenzie and the crew’s sole survivor, Brendan McDonough. Directed by Joseph Kosinski. ABC News' Sabina Ghebremedhin contributed to this report. Once the smoke began to clear, Arizona DPS Paramedic-Officer Eric Tarr was lowered by helicopter to the area to triage any survivors and found what he later called a "moonscape appearance." A rescue pilot described it as a "panic call" and it prompted Air Attack, the state command overseeing the fire, to bark, "Whoever is yelling on the radio, get off the air.". But he knows his friends' pain has been released. Where COVID-19 spreads most easily, according to experts, Congress passes 2nd COVID-19 relief bill, money before new year, Kushner pardon revives 'loathsome' tale of tax evasion, Congressional leaders await Trump's next move days ahead of a government shutdown, Man spent 36 years in prison for stealing $50 from a bakery, but now he's going free, BRIAN ROSS, JAMES GORDON MEEK and CINDY GALLI. Yet it also offers a timely reminder that stories are decisions, that … McDonough picked a spot almost a mile down the hill, where he could see both the fire and the other Hotshots. Would she grow up to view her dad as a coward? So they kind of relayed to me, 'Hey, Donut, we got eyes on it,'" McDonough remembers his captain telling him. McDonough is an uplifting speaker, whose courage to find support at his weakest has inspired others to find their own tribes of support. You don't quit. "I mean, just -- a normal workday, I guess," McDonough said he had assumed that morning. "I know they were asked to come to Yarnell if it was possible and Eric said, 'No, we are going to stay here in the black.' "It forced me to face a lot of the things that I was keeping deep down ... some of the stuff that I tried to … Knowing that these families would see me, but not anyone else off that crew. "Coming home, that was the worst feeling ever. On Thursday, the true story of those men who fought on … That would be the assignment that would separate him from the others and save his life. Brendan McDonough lost 19 friends in the Yarnell Hill fire and asks why he was spared. Prescott Fire Chief Dan Fraijo later confirmed that all 19 were from the Granite Mountain Hotshots. The Granite Mountain Hotshots formed in 2002 as a group within the Prescott Volunteer Fire Department. In this exclusive documentary by Dan Winters and Kyle Dickman, friends, family, and the lone survivor of the Granite Mountain Hotshots speak … Initial reports indicated that one of the firefighters was not a member of the hotshot crew, but Prescott Fire Chief Dan Fraijo later confirmed that all 19 were in league with the Granite Mountain Hotshots. McDonough found keys to the gear room, where metal shelves remained stacked with battered black helmets, piles of unused roughout gloves, yellow protective suits, shiny new chainsaws and pristine pick axes awaiting 19 young heroes who will never need them again. Turn on desktop notifications for breaking stories about interest? The Granite Mountain Hotshots was the only hotshot crew in the country that was part of a structural fire department, in this case, the Prescott Fire Department. Every one of the Granite Mountain Hotshots, except for McDonough, was burned alive sometime after 4:30 p.m. on June 30, when the Yarnell Hill Fire suddenly whipped 180 degrees around and cut off their escape route from a scrub brush meadow to a nearby ranch. Brendan McDonough is the lone survivor of the Granite Mountain Hotshots. "Whoever didn't bring their phone, I could hear phones ringing, knowing that it was their wives, their family," McDonough recounted in an exclusive interview with ABC News to air on "Good Morning America" today. The town has honored the Granite Mountain Hotshots with a unique tribute – a rugged hiking trail that climbs more than 1,000 feet up … I'm kind of numb at that point. Today he is. New Bill Could Boost Benefits for Some Arizona Hotshot Families. Jan Brewer and other state officials quickly repudiated Payne, who isn't involved in the probe, for offering his opinions before all the facts are in. Lone survivor Brendan McDonough and Only the Brave moviemakers honor the Granite Mountain Hotshots killed in Arizona in 2013 Why did the Granite Mountain Hotshots leave the safety of a previously burned "black" area? Entering their sixth season the 2013 Granite Mountain Inter-agency Hotshots’ became instructors at the Arizona Incident and Management Academy. McDonough says the team could now see what was happening -- contradicting some accounts that they were unaware the fire was heading toward them. "It's tough," McDonough said, as he sat near a rack of sharpened chains for their saws in the ready room left just as it was the morning of the fire, when the 20 Hotshots had their last briefing. 24/7 coverage of breaking news and live events. The two state investigations into the deaths of 19 members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots released to the public in 2013 did not include the complete autopsy and toxicology reports of the men who were killed on June 30, 2013 in the Yarnell Hill Fire. "...May the sun shine warm upon your face, the rains fall soft upon your fields...". Outside, a chain link fence has become a makeshift memorial adorned with welcome but painful reminders for the young man. Arizona Hotshots firefighters 'died from burns and inhalation problems' This article is more than 7 years old. McDonough is an uplifting speaker, whose courage to find support at his weakest has inspired others to find their own tribes of support. Brendan McDonough, 21, is the lone survivor of the 20-man team that went into the Yarnell Hill Fire as it spread throughout central Arizona. ", McDonough radioed back a brief reply to call if they needed anything and that he'd be with the buggies. It’s about who’s standing beside you. We did it because we could support our family and do what we loved.". McDonough said he joined the Hotshots after some trouble with the law and credits the experience with helping him overcome his troubled teenage years. But by then the 21-year-old elite wildland firefighter -- whom his fellow Hotshots affectionately called "Donut" in a play on his last name -- knew the horrible truth that their own families did not yet know, as he sat in the seat absorbing the magnitude of what was happening. The wildfire killed 18 of 20 members of the Granite Mountain Hotshot Crew. But the Granite Mountain crew's radios went silent as firefighters in Yarnell watched the fire front advance, and the 20th Hotshot grew increasingly anxious. The Granite Mountain Inter-agency Hotshots had been protecting the city with over $3.1 billion in assessed value, over 18,000 homes and 24,000 residents. Were the Granite Mountain Hotshots really made up of former municipal firefighters who trained to earn elite status? Sun-bleached T-shirts from fire units across the nation, helmets, wilting flowers, rain-rippled handwritten notes, photos, and 19 sets of everything from shovels to crosses, bandanas and flags drape the fencing for two blocks. The newspaper reports that the lone survivor from the Granite Mountain Hotshots, Brendan McDonough who was serving as a lookout away from the crew during the tragedy, overheard a … McDonough wonders why everything turned deadly that day too -- but he does not puzzle over Marsh's judgment or that of any other Hotshot. On June 30, firefighters with the Prescott Fire Department's interagency called the Granite Mountain Hotshots were overrun and killed by the fire. Sunk into my seat, I sunk into myself," he said in the ABC News interview, finally breaking his silence over how the terrible incident unfolded, in which only he survived. McDonough survived simply because he'd been chosen that day for an important job -- he was the crew's lookout a half mile away watching "fire behavior" and monitoring weather changes -- and he was able to escape the cascade of flames shooting as high as 50 feet. And then came very bad news that smoke-choked afternoon. The only firefighter of a 20-person Granite Mountain Hotshots who survived the Yarnell Hill Fire nearly three years ago says it’s been “a tough life to live.” You just overcome.". Through hope, determination, sacrifice and the drive to protect families and communities, the Granite Mountain Hotshots become one of the most elite firefighting crews in the country. McDonough’s story of finding his way out of the dead end of drugs, finding his purpose among the Granite Mountain Hotshots, and the minute-by-minute account of the fateful day he lost the very brothers who had saved him. talking about this. I was the only person they're going to see," McDonough said. That was the last time McDonough talked to them. As Tarr got closer to the site he reported, "I could hear voices coming from the area of the shelters," but after yelling into the smoke soon came upon charred black human remains. He is haunted by the last words of his boss. The Granite Mountain Hotshots were the first ever municipal firemen to become a hotshot crew, after years of training by their leader Eric Marsh. It perfectly illustrates the kind of teamwork and camaraderie that informed the legendary squad of hotshots working to save--in this case--their hometown from utter destruction by fire. They trained under the supervision of Eric Marsh (depicted by Josh Brolin in … Covered in soot over his bright yellow protective clothing and heavy boots as darkness fell on June 30, waves of guilt for being the only Hotshot spared death was a gut punch made all the more painful by the chirping phones behind him in the buggy. "This is where, you know, the best memories of my life will be.". But his fallen brothers were the reason he was alive that day at all. "Why wasn't I there with them?" At 4:47, it was reported over the radio that McDonough's crewmates had been forced to deploy their individual fire shelters -- a last ditch step. Lone survivor Brendan McDonough and Only the Brave moviemakers honor the Granite Mountain Hotshots killed in Arizona in 2013 The men gave their lives to protect Yarnell. They were nature conservationists, athletes and above all, firefighters. I'd cried a lot. ", Tarr radioed in his awful discovery, "I have 19 confirmed fatalities. My Lost Brothers is a gripping memoir that traces McDonough’s story of finding his way out of the dead end of drugs, finding his purpose among the Granite Mountain Hotshots, and the minute-by-minute account of the fateful day he lost the very brothers who had saved him. Entering their sixth season the 2013 Granite Mountain Inter-agency Hotshots’ became instructors at the Arizona Incident and Management Academy. \"We need to get back in here. The lone survivor from the 20-man crew was 21-year-old Brendan McDonough. Wildfire survivor won't second-guess 19 who died. Brendan McDonough survived one of the deadliest wildfires in U.S. history, an inferno near Yarnell, Ariz., that killed 19 of his fellow Granite Mountain Hotshots on June 30, 2013. Brendan McDonough, 21, is the lone survivor of the 20-man team that went into the Yarnell Hill Fire as it spread throughout central Arizona. "I have no clue," says lone hotshot survivor Brendan McDonough. He was the only one to survive. Soon after, he began the long journey of therapy. It's not their fault. Yes. The winds that had been driving the fire away from the Hotshots began to turn 180 degrees, propelled by what some fire officials call a "perfect storm" of gusts up to 50 miles per hour. Additional portions will be broadcast tonight on "World News With Diane Sawyer" and "Nightline". Wasn't a bad decision.". "Everything seemed normal, not threatening. The crew had 11 kids among them, including McDonough's own two-year-old daughter, and three not yet born who lost dads they'll never meet. "They said, 'If you need to get out of there, go ahead and get out of there... we want you to be safe too,' you know? Nineteen of the 20 members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots, an elite crew trained to fight wilderness fires, died on June 30, 2013, as they battled a fierce fire outside the old gold-mining village of Yarnell, Arizona. Every one of the Granite Mountain Hotshots, except for McDonough, was burned alive sometime after 4:30 p.m. on June 30, when the Yarnell Hill … McDonough ejected the bullet, pulled out the magazine and tossed it and the gun in the backseat. However, not all of the bodies were found inside the fire s… PHOTOS: Brendan 'Donut' McDonough Watched the Roaring Fire Turn on His Friends. Photos of the 19 fallen Granite Mountain Hotshot firefighters and Brendan McDonough, the lone survivor, in Prescott, Ariz., in (Julie Jacobson . Only the Brave is a 2017 American biographical drama film directed by Joseph Kosinski, and written by Ken Nolan and Eric Warren Singer, based on the GQ article "No Exit" by Sean Flynn. The 19th dead firefighter was from another group. Building a sense of brotherhood within communities gives McDonough great joy – because it helps this fighter honor the legacy of his 19 lost, but not forgotten, brothers. "It's not something you wanna hear," McDonough said. Around 4:00 in the afternoon, however, everything changed. All 19 of his brother Hotshots had just been killed by the ripping Yarnell Hill blaze in the largest loss of life among firefighters since the 9/11 attacks. About the Granite Mountain Interagency Hotshot Crew Learning and Tribute Center. Just -- a typical day, going direct on a fire," he told ABC News. Nineteen firefighters from the Granite Mountain Hotshots lost their lives in the 2013 wildfire in Yarnell, Ariz. Brendan McDonough is the crew’s sole survivor. Building a sense of brotherhood within communities gives McDonough great joy – because it helps this fighter honor the legacy of his 19 lost, but not forgotten, brothers. "I sunk. I said, 'Okay.'". To learn more about organizations helping the families of the 19 fallen firefighters, visit Prescott Firefighters Charities and The Wildland Firefighter Foundation. The blond, rail-thin veteran of three fire seasons led ABC News through the crew's station, a place once a center of activity in fire season but now sorrowfully quiet and filled with U.S. flags signed by fire squads, commemorative wood carvings, postcards and letters of gratitude from many whose homes were saved by the Hotshots, as well as children's playful drawings saying "thank you." CLICK HERE to return to The Investigative Unit homepage. In the five weeks since, Brendan McDonough has been grieving in private and putting on a brave face in public, reading the Hotshots Prayer at a large memorial service attended by families of the fallen, friends and dignitaries including Vice President Biden. Every one of them strong, smart, always ready to head into the danger others fled. McDonough said he asked himself. A harrowing tale of resilience in the face of tragedy. The two state investigations into the deaths of 19 members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots released to the public in 2013 did not include the complete autopsy and toxicology reports of the men who were killed on June 30, 2013 in the Yarnell Hill Fire. The Granite Mountain Hotshots were supposed to be in a safety zone, which was an area that had already been burned by the uncontrollable wildfire. This October, it’s not about what’s standing in front of you. "I asked a million times, 'Why am I sitting here and why isn't someone else? He could see them clearly enough to identify individuals as he left and headed toward a nearby highway used as a command center for the fire response. While most people run from danger, they run toward it — watching over lives, homes and everything people hold dear, forging a unique brotherhood that comes into focus with one fateful fire in Yarnell, Ariz. Brendan is part of The Greater Talent Network Speakers Bureau. Arizona Gov. McDonough said. "From where they were, they could see it picking up. ", McDonough told ABC News that he is still processing the "unreal" tragedy and allowed that since it happened, "some days are better than others, some hours are better than others.". OUR VISION is an exemplary, one-of-a kind wildland fire learning center that honors the legacy of the Granite Mountain Interagency Hotshot Crew by educating, inspiring, and motivating visitors to adopt behaviors that prevent wildland fires, resulting in fewer fire-related fatalities. We've got to get them out of here.”The Helms never saw the Granite Mountain Hotshots on the day they died and never knew the crew was working nearby. He also appeared at a charity golf outing at Gainey Ranch country club in Scottsdale on Friday that raised more than $100,000 for the Hotshots' families and Yarnell residents who lost their homes. Almost two hours after it was reported at 4:47 p.m. that the Hotshots had deployed protective personal shelters, an Arizona state paramedic hiked up to the site of torched chaparral and confirmed the worst. A firefighter walked up to Diane Helm, who was in her yard surveying damage after the fire. McDonough was the only survivor of Sunday's disaster. McDonough’s story of finding his way out of the dead end of drugs, finding his purpose among the Granite Mountain Hotshots, and the minute-by-minute account of the fateful day he lost the very brothers who had saved him. With Josh Brolin, Miles Teller, Jeff Bridges, Jennifer Connelly. And I came to a point where I just didn't have any more tears.". The Granite Mountain Hotshots were a 20-man wildland firefighting crew based out of Prescott, Arizona, 30 miles from Yarnell. Everything was black, and he notice a chainsaw blade and a pick ax head with the handle burned away. "I walked into the shelter deployment site and determined that the voices I had heard were coming from still functioning radios. Four years ago, the Granite Mountain Hotshots died battling a horrifying wildfire in Yarnell. He lives in Prescott, Arizona. Days later, he had a tattoo artist ink the stanzas of an old Gaelic prayer inside his right bicep as a constant reminder of his hope that the fallen "Nineteen," as they're now known in Prescott, have found peace. Four years ago, the Granite Mountain Hotshots died battling a horrifying wildfire in Yarnell. On Thursday, the true story of those men who fought on … #OnlyTheBrave, based on the true story of the Granite Mountain Hotshots only in theaters. The art of storytelling is treacherous, and the new film Only the Brave, released last Friday, is among the more noteworthy recent displays of the arts peculiarities and pitfalls. The firefighters had apparently deployed fire sheltersduring the ambush, but the heat of the wildfire soared over 2,000 °F (1,090 °C). On June 30, firefighters with the Prescott Fire Department's interagency Granite Mountain Hotshots were overrun and killed by the fire. ", Incredibly, McDonough says quitting firefighting is "not an option. "No, I never question the decisions they've made," he said, seated in the ready room beneath crossed axes affixed to one wall. Here are glimpses of the men they were and what they leave behind. Five years ago, McDonough fought the Yarnell Hill Fire with his Granite Mountain hot shots. "That's when the superintendent and our captain asked me to be the lookout," he explained. No one. Nineteen of the 20 members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots, an elite crew trained to fight wilderness fires, died on June 30, 2013, as they battled a fierce fire outside the old gold-mining village of Yarnell, Arizona. The Granite Mountain Inter-agency Hotshots had been protecting the city with over $3.1 billion in assessed value, over 18,000 homes and 24,000 residents. "None of us ever did it for money. The wildfire killed 18 of 20 members of the Granite Mountain Hotshot Crew. He was at what wildland firefighters call their trigger point -- time to make a move. Aug. 7, 2013 — -- Five weeks after the worst day of his young life, Brendan McDonough still hears the cell phones that were ringing in the back of his fire truck, the agonizing peal of loved ones desperate to reach his 19 missing buddies in the Granite Mountain Interagency Hotshot Crew fighting a raging wildfire on a scorched Arizona mountainside. ... especially when no one ever will know what was going on with the Granite Mountain Hotshots during the final minutes before they died. And for some reason they left." And when Donut thinks of their fallen, he gazes down at the inked words on his arm, which end with hope. 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