"No, I never question the decisions they've made," he said, seated in the ready room beneath crossed axes affixed to one wall. A firefighter walked up to Diane Helm, who was in her yard surveying damage after the fire. 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 … This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged. "Jesse Steed, my captain, said, 'All right, I'll see you soon.' ABC News' Sabina Ghebremedhin contributed to this report. "...May the wind be always at your back...". Moments later he … 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. Survivor: McDonough walks back to his seat after speaking at a memorial service for the fallen members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots on July, a week after the tragedy wiped out his team If you are interested in booking him for a speaking event please visit the link below. By John Dougherty. McDonough picked a spot almost a mile down the hill, where he could see both the fire and the other Hotshots. The lone survivor from the 20-man crew was 21-year-old Brendan McDonough. And he is determined not to let down the families of the Nineteen, either. 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.". "That's when the superintendent and our captain asked me to be the lookout," he explained. The men gave their lives to protect Yarnell. 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. 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. 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 … 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." 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. 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. 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. Additional portions will be broadcast tonight on "World News With Diane Sawyer" and "Nightline". 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. 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. 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.” 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. The Helms were among the first to find out that a crew of 19 firefighters had died nearby. talking about this. Lone survivor Brendan McDonough and Only the Brave moviemakers honor the Granite Mountain Hotshots killed in Arizona in 2013 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. No one. 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. ... especially when no one ever will know what was going on with the Granite Mountain Hotshots during the final minutes before they died. "It's not something you wanna hear," McDonough said. Brendan is part of The Greater Talent Network Speakers Bureau. "It forced me to face a lot of the things that I was keeping deep down ... some of the stuff that I tried to … 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. He was at what wildland firefighters call their trigger point -- time to make a move. 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. 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. is the lone survivor of the Yarnell Hill fire tragedy of 2013. "I have no clue," says lone hotshot survivor Brendan McDonough. 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. 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. And when Donut thinks of their fallen, he gazes down at the inked words on his arm, which end with hope. 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. McDonough ejected the bullet, pulled out the magazine and tossed it and the gun in the backseat. McDonough was the only survivor of Sunday's disaster. 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. Photos of the 19 fallen Granite Mountain Hotshot firefighters and Brendan McDonough, the lone survivor, in Prescott, Ariz., in (Julie Jacobson . 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. Sole survivor of Granite Mountain Hotshots speaks at memorial McDonough was the only survivor of Sunday's disaster. Arizona Gov. Around 4:00 in the afternoon, however, everything changed. I'd cried a lot. "Why wasn't I there with them?" "...Until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of His hand.". "I mean, just -- a normal workday, I guess," McDonough said he had assumed that morning. This October, it’s not about what’s standing in front of you. With Josh Brolin, Miles Teller, Jeff Bridges, Jennifer Connelly. "I can see them in my head, playing with their kids," he said, pausing as his heart filled with emotion over the losses. But images of his daughter crept into his head. Brendan McDonough is the lone survivor of the Granite Mountain Hotshots. Granite Mountain Hotshots team leader Eric Marsh radioed through to let his commanders know the group had a predetermined safety zone. Everything was black, and he notice a chainsaw blade and a pick ax head with the handle burned away. The 19th dead firefighter was from another group. 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. "I never questioned them before, why should I question them now? The wildfire killed 18 of 20 members of the Granite Mountain Hotshot Crew. Instead of moving north, it started moving south as the flame front leapt from 25 to 50 feet high. He was the only one to survive. "None of us ever did it for money. On Thursday, the true story of those men who fought on … ", 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.". Today he is a public speaker and works with numerous nonprofits for veterans, police officers, firefighters, and emergency medical services. The Granite Mountain Hotshots were the first ever municipal firemen to become a hotshot crew, after years of training by their leader Eric Marsh. And for some reason they left." Entering their sixth season the 2013 Granite Mountain Inter-agency Hotshots’ became instructors at the Arizona Incident and Management Academy. ", Tarr radioed in his awful discovery, "I have 19 confirmed fatalities. 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. We've got 19 dead firefighters up on the hill. You just overcome.". 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. That would be the assignment that would separate him from the others and save his life. Were the Granite Mountain Hotshots really made up of former municipal firefighters who trained to earn elite status? 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. And then came very bad news that smoke-choked afternoon. Today he is. "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.' Outside, a chain link fence has become a makeshift memorial adorned with welcome but painful reminders for the young man. "Coming home, that was the worst feeling ever. "I walked into the shelter deployment site and determined that the voices I had heard were coming from still functioning radios. The Granite Mountain Hotshots formed in 2002 as a group within the Prescott Volunteer Fire Department. Wasn't a bad decision.". Soon after, he began the long journey of therapy. But his fallen brothers were the reason he was alive that day at all. 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. It’s about who’s standing beside you. 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 … Directed by Joseph Kosinski. 24/7 coverage of breaking news and live events. Why did the Granite Mountain Hotshots leave the safety of a previously burned "black" area? "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. ... Christopher MacKenzie and the crew’s sole survivor, Brendan McDonough. 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. New Bill Could Boost Benefits for Some Arizona Hotshot Families. 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. 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 … 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. That was the last time McDonough talked to them. McDonough said he joined the Hotshots after some trouble with the law and credits the experience with helping him overcome his troubled teenage years. He is haunted by the last words of his boss. ", McDonough radioed back a brief reply to call if they needed anything and that he'd be with the buggies. Would she grow up to view her dad as a coward? Chore lists, fitness goals and duty rosters with the 20 Hotshots' names still were tacked to walls. I was the only person they're going to see," McDonough said. 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. Prescott Fire Chief Dan Fraijo later confirmed that all 19 were from the Granite Mountain Hotshots. Knowing that these families would see me, but not anyone else off that crew. \"We need to get back in here. We did it because we could support our family and do what we loved.". On Thursday, the true story of those men who fought on … "I sunk. They were nature conservationists, athletes and above all, firefighters. CLICK HERE to return to The Investigative Unit homepage. 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. 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. "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? "From where they were, they could see it picking up. "I asked a million times, 'Why am I sitting here and why isn't someone else? On June 30, firefighters with the Prescott Fire Department's interagency Granite Mountain Hotshots were overrun and killed by the fire. #OnlyTheBrave, based on the true story of the Granite Mountain Hotshots only in theaters. 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. Entering their sixth season the 2013 Granite Mountain Inter-agency Hotshots’ became instructors at the Arizona Incident and Management Academy. 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. They trained under the supervision of Eric Marsh (depicted by Josh Brolin in … Turn on desktop notifications for breaking stories about interest? The 19th dead firefighter was from another group. The Granite Mountain Hotshots were a 20-man wildland firefighting crew based out of Prescott, Arizona, 30 miles from Yarnell. "...May the sun shine warm upon your face, the rains fall soft upon your fields...". To learn more about organizations helping the families of the 19 fallen firefighters, visit Prescott Firefighters Charities and The Wildland Firefighter Foundation. It's not their fault. McDonough said he asked himself. "Everything seemed normal, not threatening. The structural firefighting mentality “is dangerously seeping into the wildland realm and needs to be stopped,” Schoeffler warned. All wildfires can become dangerous. However, not all of the bodies were found inside the fire s… 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. 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. 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. He lives in Prescott, Arizona. 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. He went from drugs and jail, to joining The Granite Mountain Hotshots, a new beginning that saved him for a time. In this exclusive documentary by Dan Winters and Kyle Dickman, friends, family, and the lone survivor of the Granite Mountain Hotshots speak … 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. 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. 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. "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. He has attended every funeral and visited each of the Nineteen's families. On the morning of June 30, all 20 members of Prescott, Arizona's Granite Mountain Hotshots headed into the mountains to protect the small town of Yarnell from an advancing blaze. 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. Just -- a typical day, going direct on a fire," he told ABC News. Arizona Hotshots firefighters 'died from burns and inhalation problems' This article is more than 7 years old. But he knows his friends' pain has been released. And I came to a point where I just didn't have any more tears.". Yes. 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 Fire suddenly whipped 180 degrees around and cut off their escape route from a scrub brush meadow to a nearby ranch. 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. You don't quit. 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. 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. Wildfire survivor won't second-guess 19 who died. Every one of them strong, smart, always ready to head into the danger others fled. 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. McDonough says the team could now see what was happening -- contradicting some accounts that they were unaware the fire was heading toward them. ", Incredibly, McDonough says quitting firefighting is "not an option. 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. About the Granite Mountain Interagency Hotshot Crew Learning and Tribute Center. Four years ago, the Granite Mountain Hotshots died battling a horrifying wildfire in Yarnell. I'm kind of numb at that point. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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 is an uplifting speaker, whose courage to find support at his weakest has inspired others to find their own tribes of support. Lone survivor Brendan McDonough and Only the Brave moviemakers honor the Granite Mountain Hotshots killed in Arizona in 2013 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. 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. The town has honored the Granite Mountain Hotshots with a unique tribute – a rugged hiking trail that climbs more than 1,000 feet up … 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. Five years ago, McDonough fought the Yarnell Hill Fire with his Granite Mountain hot shots. McDonough is an uplifting speaker, whose courage to find support at his weakest has inspired others to find their own tribes of support. \"Ma'am,\" he said. Why aren't they sitting here with me?'" The wildfire killed 18 of 20 members of the Granite Mountain Hotshot Crew. Here are glimpses of the men they were and what they leave behind. I can't stop trying because I feel like they somewhat look to me because I'm the only one left," he said. 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 said. McDonough wonders why everything turned deadly that day too -- but he does not puzzle over Marsh's judgment or that of any other Hotshot. "I can't fail them. The firefighters had apparently deployed fire sheltersduring the ambush, but the heat of the wildfire soared over 2,000 °F (1,090 °C). A harrowing tale of resilience in the face of tragedy. On June 30, firefighters with the Prescott Fire Department's interagency called the Granite Mountain Hotshots were overrun and killed by the fire. 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." Brendan McDonough lost 19 friends in the Yarnell Hill fire and asks why he was spared. 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. Granite Mountain]is a harrowing story of heroism in the face of natural disaster. So they kind of relayed to me, 'Hey, Donut, we got eyes on it,'" McDonough remembers his captain telling him. They were nature conservationists, athletes and above all, firefighters. 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