Helping others is one way Amanda Marsh deals with the loss of her firefighter husband

Eric Marsh was the Crew Superintendent of the Granite Mountain Hotshots; he and 18 other members of the crew were entrapped and killed on an Arizona wildfire in 2013.

Four years ago her best friend and husband was killed on a wildfire near Yarnell, Arizona along with 18 other firefighters ranging in age from 21 to 36. In the years since June 30, 2013 she has experienced what every spouse dreads or does not want to think about — losing your partner in life. Below, Amanda Marsh reveals what she went through and what she found on the other side, including a way to help others who find themselves in a similar dark place.

Bill Gabbert


By Amanda Marsh

Adaptation has become the word that best describes my life post Yarnell Hill Fire.  I woke the morning of June 30th, 2013 with a mind to do my regular Sunday chores.  Feed horses and dogs, clean up the house and work a little with a client’s horse in the afternoon.  When I lay my head down that night in my best friend’s bed, my life had been completely shattered.  Every time I tried to close my eyes all I could see were 19 bodies on the hill and one of them belonged to my husband.  The body I knew so well.  My best friend’s Saint Bernard kept putting his huge nose in my face until I finally got out of bed and walked onto the back porch.

Amanda and Eric Marsh
Amanda and Eric. Photo supplied by Amanda Marsh.

My parents were trying to get to Prescott from southern California but had been rerouted all the way through Phoenix because of the fire.  I sat on the porch and started calling every number in my phone, but everyone was asleep.  It was midnight and their lives weren’t shattered like mine.  Their husband’s body wasn’t lying on Yarnell Hill with the life ravaged out of it.

I sat with my knees pulled up to my chin and I cried and I cried and I cried.  Was this possibly real?  Was I having a very bad dream I would wake from soon?  I looked out over the darkness of Prescott and I wondered how in the world I would ever get through losing so many amazing souls.  How could Jesse be gone and Clay?  How could Travy and Turby be dead?  These were the men who fueled many of Eric’s stories about his fire life.  These were the men I knew would be there in a heartbeat if they could, how could they be gone?  I was 38 years old, and in the blink of an eye, the change of the wind, I had become the eldest widow of the Granite Mountain Hotshots.

Eric Marsh FoundationOf course, I didn’t realize it then, but that night was the start of the Eric Marsh Foundation for Wildland Firefighters.  That night and the horrid days and nights that followed.  My painful experiences, burying my husband, the funerals of our friends, wanting to die, fighting to stay sober, the anger that swept through me and never left, pushing everyone away, fighting to stay in control of my life, fighting, fighting, fighting.  These experiences pulled me in the direction of wanting to be of service to others who were going through the same thing.  I needed to help others in the wildland community and I needed to do it in my husband’s name.

I wanted to create a legacy of giving in Eric’s name because that is who he was in life.  Our shared sober life meant that both of us had done things in our pasts we were not proud of and one of the ways Eric chose to make those wrongs right was to give people a chance to prove themselves on the crew.  He gave jobs to people others would never have even considered.  Eric had been given a second and third chance in his fire life and he needed to pay that forward, and he did, often.  I was their advocate, pulling for the underdogs through the fire season.  Losing that way of life hit me so hard and I needed to create something good, I needed something amazing in my life or I was not going to be able to hold on.  I needed something to work on, I needed to watch something grow out of the ash.  I needed to turn my pain, my empathy and compassion and my experiences into something positive to help others.

The Eric Marsh Foundation for Wildland Firefighters came into fruition and I began raising money to donate to next of kin of wildland firefighters killed in the line of duty.  One of the first next of kin we helped was Colleen Ricks.  Her husband Brandon was a helicopter pilot who perished on a prescribed fire when his helicopter went down in 2015.  I didn’t have Colleen’s contact information and so I called the church where Brandon’s services were just held and spoke to the pastor.  He gave me Colleen’s number.  I dialed the number, expecting to leave a message but a woman answered.  Her voice was heavy and sad, I knew it must be her.  I began to cry.  Through my tears I told her who I was and why I was calling and we stayed on the phone for a long time, both of us crying for each other, ourselves and for Brandon and Eric.  To this day Colleen is one of my best friends.  We understand each other in ways only widows can.

Our mission is simple: To assist next-of-kin of wildland firefighters killed in the line of duty and wildland firefighters with PTSD.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder has been a long standing companion in my life.  From my first tragic loss in 1983 when my best friends were brutally murdered to my loss in the Yarnell Hill Fire, PTSD has never left my side.  I have had to adapt to its presence and get help to overcome the sometimes debilitating effects of its uninvited companionship.  I have a heart for others living with PTSD and for the families who surround these individuals.  The Eric Marsh Foundation for Wildland Firefighters has been able to help wildland firefighters with PTSD by paying for their treatment and also by utilizing my history to lend emotional support to individuals who need it, both family of and wildland firefighters themselves.  My 11 years of sobriety has also helped wildland firefighters struggling with drug and alcohol problems.  I want to be of service and I want my experiences to give strength and hope to others.  What good is any of it if it is only helpful to me?

We believe there is so much need in the wildland community that there is room for us all to help each other and to give to each other.  Our foundation supports having many organizations that support and administer to the wildland community, the more the better.   We are always looking for volunteers to help us at events and for those wishing to have events for us.

The Eric Marsh Foundation for Wildland Firefighters comes from the heart of Prescott, from the home base of the Granite Mountain Hotshots.  The place Eric and I met and fell in love, where my recovery and my life began.  Where I buried my husband and my friends, where my community of firefighters, police officers and all other first responders have picked me up time and time again.  Prescott is our home and we are proud to continue to serve our community and to grow outward from here.  Prescott is our home base and our foundation is important to the greater community of Prescott.  The Yarnell Hill Fire became a world event, but the Eric Marsh Foundation has grown here in this community which his given so much.  This community lost the guys, too.  They felt the deep impact of the loss and they cried with us.  We matter to our community and to the wildland community.

Although we call ourselves the Eric Marsh Foundation, we respect all the fallen Granite Mountain Hotshots because they were all amazing men and deserve recognition for their lives and for their ultimate sacrifice.  We are united behind all wildland firefighters, first responders and all their families.  We have chosen to use the Granite Mountain Hotshot logo to reflect this respect and this love that our foundation has for the entire Granite Mountain Hotshot crew and all wildland firefighters.

If you need us, we are here.  We love our wildland community and we are staying strong to be of service in the best possible way.  We understand what you are going through and we are here for you and for your families.  Please visit our website: and follow us on Facebook at Eric Marsh Foundation for Wildland Firefighters.

The Granite Mountain Hotshots live on in our hearts forever, they taught me so much, and they always guide my path as I make decisions that continue to honor them and their values.  Esse Quam Videri– To be, rather than to seem.  For them, with them, love them, we will honor them forever.

Granite Mountain logoAndrew Ashcraft – Age: 29
Robert Caldwell – Age: 23
Travis Carter – Age: 31
Dustin Deford – Age: 24
Christopher MacKenzie – Age: 30
Eric Marsh – Age: 43
Grant McKee – Age: 21
Sean Misner – Age: 26
Scott Norris – Age: 28
Wade Parker – Age: 22
John Percin- Age: 24
Anthony Rose- Age: 23
Jesse Steed- Age: 36
Joe Thurston- Age: 32
Travis Turbyfill – Age: 27
William Warneke – Age: 25
Clayton Whitted – Age: 28
Kevin Woyjeck – Age: 21
Garret Zuppiger – Age: 27

Trailer released for the movie about the Granite Mountain Hotshots

The film is due to open October 20.

The Director of the film about the Granite Mountain Hotshots just recently completed the final edits and has released the official trailer (above).

Supposedly it tells the story of the 19 firefighters that were entrapped and killed on the Yarnell Hill Fire in Arizona June 30, 2013. One crewmember who was not with the others at the time of the burnover and survived, Brendan McDonough, is listed in the credits as a Creative Consultant.

The images shown here are from the website and the trailer.

scene film Only the Brave

The name of the film has changed, from No Exit, to Granite Mountain, and finally to Only The Brave: Based on the true story of the Granite Mountain Hotshots. The release date has been pushed from September to October 20.

A number of books and articles have been written about the tragedy, but the producers say the film is based on an article published in GQ Magazine titled No Exit, by Sean Flynn.

scene film Only the Brave

GQ published an article today featuring an interview with the Director, Joseph Kosinski. Here’s an excerpt in which he talks about casting:

..The two roles I cast first were Eric Marsh and Brendan McDonough. Josh Brolin was always at the top of my list. I flew out to Asheville, North Carolina, where he was filming another movie, and sat down with him on a Saturday afternoon. I talked him through the vision I had for this film, and the importance of this story, and he got it instantly. He had actually worked as a volunteer firefighter at one point in his life, and he had lived in Prescott, Arizona, at one point. He felt an instant connection to the material and the story; that got him interested.

Before production began, the director hired two former members of Granite Mountain who put the 20 actors playing the parts of firefighters through a two-week “Hotshot camp”.

Here’s another excerpt from the GQ article about the reaction to the film from the Granite Mountain family members.

I just finished the film two weeks ago, so we’re just starting to show it to the family members now. The reaction so far has been everything I would have hoped and more—which, to me, is almost the most important thing. I believe so wholeheartedly in [the Granite Mountain Hotshots’] story being a heroic one, and one that needs to be told. Of all the opinions on a film, [the family members’ reaction] is one that truly matters to me on the deepest level. And so far, every reaction I’ve gotten from the family members is that we did our job.

scene film Only the Brave

cast film Only the Brave


The film’s website has more information.

Four years ago — Yarnell Hill Fire

Granite Mountain HotshotsFour years ago today, on June 30, 2013, 19 wildland firefighters were overrun by the Yarnell Hill Fire outside Yarnell, Arizona. One way to honor the service of the Granite Mountain Hotshots is for firefighters on this day to take 15 minutes and select one thing — one act, one task, one decision, one directive, or one action — that happened that day and discuss what it means to them. Just one. Don’t be tempted to point fingers, not today. Make it a positive learning experience.

Below is a short documentary produced by the Weather Channel that features the incident.

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Perry.
Typos or errors, report them HERE.

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.