LA County Fire Museum purchases Granite Mountain Hotshots’ crew buggies

Above: One of the Granite Mountain Hotshots’ crew buggies was near the front of the procession that brought the 19 fallen firefighters from Phoenix to Prescott, July 7, 2013. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

Tuesday night the Prescott, Arizona City Council voted unanimously to accept the bid of the Los Angeles County Fire Museum to purchase the two crew carriers (or crew buggies) that were used by the Granite Mountain Hotshots.

Nineteen of the 20 Granite Mountain Hot Shot crewmembers perished at the Yarnell Hill Fire on June 30, 2013.

The trucks, which carried the Granite Mountain Hotshots throughout the Southwestern U.S. during the 2013 wildfire season, were deemed “surplus properties” by the City of Prescott after it disbanded the crew. The museum’s bid of $25,000 for both vehicles was the only bid submitted, according to Prescott City Manager Michael Lamar. Under terms of the deal, both of the buggies will be owned by the County of Los Angeles Fire Museum.

One of the buggies will go to the County of Los Angeles Fire Museum in Bellflower, California and the other one is slated to be placed on loan to the Hall of Flame fire museum in Phoenix, Arizona. When a suitable facility is built in Prescott, the truck at the Hall of Flame will be moved to Prescott.

Granite Mountain Hotshots’ park has received thousands of visitors

Above: The parking lot at the Granite Mountain Hotshots Memorial State Park trailhead southwest of Yarnell, Arizona was about half full at 3 p.m. on May 19, 2017.

The new Granite Mountain Hotshots Memorial State Park that opened November 30, 2016 is receiving so much use that often visitors are turned away when the small parking lot is full. Arizona State Parks reports that approximately 10,500 people have visited the site, more than the small parking lot can handle at times.

The park honors the 19 wildland firefighters that were killed on June 30, 2013 when they were overrun by the suddenly very active Yarnell Hill Fire near Yarnell, Arizona, 90 miles northwest of Phoenix.

Granite Mountain Hotshots Memorial State Park
Interpretive panels and stairway leading to the trail at the Granite Mountain Hotshots Memorial State Park.

The park consists of a trailhead on U.S. Highway 89 approximately two miles west of Yarnell and a 3.6-mile trail leading to the fatality site. Along the trail are 19 stone plaques honoring each of the fallen Hotshots and six interpretive signs that tell their story.

The trail is fairly steep with quite a bit of elevation change, up and down, and can take four to six hours round-trip for the casual hiker.

The trailhead is located on an east-west section of the highway where the road contours across a very steep mountain. The highway is divided at that point with the eastbound lane several hundred feet below the westbound lane.

If you are driving east toward Yarnell you will not pass directly by the trailhead — you will see it only if you are heading west. However the state built a new road connecting the two opposing lanes about a quarter of a mile to the east. Signs direct eastbound travelers to turn left to get on the connecting road. Upon reaching the westbound lane, you turn left again and drive down to the parking lot and trailhead.

When I was there on May 19 about half of the 17 parking places were taken. According to an article in the Daily Courier the parking lot often being full has motivated park managers and locals to find a way to keep folks from being turned away. One idea being tossed around is to offer a shuttle.

Below is an excerpt from the article:

The group’s idea is to create a shuttle system that would take visitors from an overflow lot in Yarnell to the state park south of town. The group is looking into grant opportunities to help fund the shuttle, Lechner said.
Along with relieving the traffic frustrations for visitors, Lechner said the shuttle also could help the Yarnell businesses by bringing more the visitors into town.

“The best way to honor the sacrifice made by the Hotshots is to make Yarnell the most wonderful, thriving community as possible,” she said.

Granite Mountain Hotshots Memorial State Park
The fatality site at Granite Mountain Hotshots Memorial State Park. Photo by Arizona State Parks.

Former hotshot sues to obtain information about Yarnell Hill Fire

Yarnell Hill Fire
Yarnell Hill Fire at 7:30 p.m. MST, June 29, 2013, approximately 21 hours before the 19 fatalities. Photo by ATGS Rory Collins, Oregon Department of Forestry.

A former hotshot superintendent is suing the Department of Agriculture to get information the U.S. Forest Service so far has not released about the Yarnell Hill Fire. On June 30, 2013, 19 members of the Granite Mountain Hotshot Crew were entrapped and killed on the fire near Yarnell, Arizona.

Fred Schoeffler is seeking recordings or transcripts of radio transmissions with aircraft that were working on the fire.

Below is an excerpt from an article in the Republic:

Schoeffler, a former hotshot supervisor in Payson for 26 years, alleges that the Forest Service answered his Freedom of Information Act request by claiming they “did not find any responsive records.” Wildfire officials previously have acknowledged the study was underway, and Schoeffler’s complaint notes that air-to-ground voices of those taking part are audible in Forest Service videos released after the fire.

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Jeff and Dick.

Typos or errors, report them HERE.

Granite Mountain Hotshots Memorial State Park to open November 30

A 3.6-mile trail leads to the fatality site.

Above: the fatality site in Granite Mountain Hotshots Memorial State Park honoring the 19 firefighters. Arizona State Parks photo.

A new state park that honors the 19 firefighters who were killed on the Yarnell Hill Fire is set to open to the public on November 30, 2016.

On June 30, 2013 the Granite Mountain Hotshots were fighting the Yarnell Hill Fire near Yarnell, Arizona, 90 miles northwest of Phoenix. A passing thunderstorm created very strong outflow winds that suddenly changed the direction the fire was spreading, forcing it to make a right turn. The fire raced toward 19 men on the crew, trapping and killing them in a box canyon.

Granite Mountain Hotshots Memorial State Park
A bench at Granite Mountain Hotshots Memorial State Park. Photo by Arizona State Parks.

Legislation appropriated funds to purchase the 308 acres of land on June 30, 2015. The park came to life thanks to public donations, volunteers, staff from Arizona State Parks, and a generous donation from the Arizona Public Service Foundation.

Granite Mountain HotshotsFrom the trailhead on Highway 89 approximately two miles west of Yarnell, hiking 2.85 miles up a steep slope then along a ridge will take the visitor to an observation deck overlooking the fatality site. Another .75 mile downhill and you will be at the location where the Hotshots deployed their fire shelters. There is an approximate 1,200 foot elevation gain.

Along the trail are 19 stone plaques honoring each of the fallen Granite Mountain Hotshots and six interpretive signs that tell their story. At the end of the trail steel and stones now surround the barren earth to protect and preserve the area where the hotshots bravely made their last stand. A quiet path and benches offer a space to reflect.

Yarnell Hill Fire firefighters killed
The 19 firefighters that were killed on the Yarnell Hill Fire.

“The families and the communities of Prescott and Yarnell have worked hand-in-hand with the state to develop Granite Mountain Hotshots Memorial State Park,” said Sue Black, Executive Director of Arizona State Parks. “We truly want the memorial to be a place for healing and to honor the lives and legacy of 19 hotshots.”

A dedication ceremony for family members and involved officials is scheduled for November 29, and the park will open to the public the following day.

(Maps are below)

Continue reading “Granite Mountain Hotshots Memorial State Park to open November 30”

Yarnell Hill Fire homeowners ask appellate court to allow them to sue the state

Above: Hearing in the Court of Appeals, September 21, 2016. Screen grab from video.

From the Insurance Journal:

Attorneys for Yarnell residents who lost their homes in the deadly 2013 Arizona wildfire are asking the Court of Appeals to allow their clients to sue the state.

KJZZ-FM reported that previously homeowners sued the state Forestry Division, but a trial judge dismissed the case concluding the state had no duty to protect the residents’ property.

At a hearing [September 21, 2016] an attorney for the state said Arizona is not responsible for protecting everyone who chooses to live adjacent to wilderness.

Plaintiffs’ attorney David Abney says that since the state fought the fire, it voluntarily agreed to try to protect Yarnell. Abney wants the appellate court to give his clients a chance to make their case to a jury.

The 2013 Yarnell wildfire killed 19 firefighters and burned more than 120 homes.

To our knowledge, the Court of Appeals has not yet handed down their decision.

Video from the hearing is available on YouTube.

“Granite Mountain” film to begin production Monday

It will be filmed in New Mexico.

Granite Mountain cast
Granite Mountain cast. IMDB.

The film about the Granite Mountain Hotshots is set to begin production on Monday, and will attempt to tell the story of the 20-person crew of wildland firefighters that were all killed on the Yarnell Hill Fire in 2013 except for one survivor, Brendan McDonough.

Producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura has hired a very impressive cast including Josh Brolin, Jeff Bridges, Andie MacDowell, Jennifer Connelly, and Taylor Kitsch. (IMDB has a full list of the cast.)

Below is an excerpt from an AP article:

The producers behind a movie about the elite firefighting team that lost 19 members in a 2013 Arizona wildfire assure the story focuses on the firefighters’ dedication, not the way in which they died.

The movie will be filming in Santa Fe, Los Alamos and several other cities in New Mexico through early September. It is slated to open in theaters in September 2017.

Producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura said the plot will focus on Eric Marsh, who led the crew, and Brendan McDonough, the only surviving hotshot crew member. He said it will not focus on tragedy or the exact details of the fire.

“This movie is about the lives of these people and what they were trying to put on the line, and what it meant to them to do what they were doing and what it meant to the community to have them doing it,” he said.

Brolin will play Marsh, who was superintendent of the Granite Mountain Hotshot crew, with Connolly playing his wife, Amanda Marsh.

The movie will be released in September 22, 2017.