Press conference with the cast of “Only the Brave”

Below we have a recording of the live press conference that occurred in Los Angeles Sunday morning October 8, 2017 featuring nine people associated with the movie about the Granite Mountain Hotshots, “Only the Brave”.

On June 30, 2013 19 members of the crew were killed on the Yarnell Hill Fire south of Prescott, Arizona. Of the 20 Hotshots, the only one that survived was Brendan McDonough. In the photo above, Brendan is on the left in the front row and was introduced as a creative consultant. One of the actors mentioned that he was on the set almost every day. Seated in the front row to Brendan’s left (L to R) are Miles Teller (he plays Brendan in the film), Josh Brolin (Eric Marsh), Jennifer Connelly (Amanda Marsh), and Jeff Bridges (Duane Steinbrink).

In the back row (L to R) are Joseph Kosinski (Director), Taylor Kitsch (Chris MacKenzie), James Badge Dale (Jesse Steed), and Pat McCarty (former Granite Mountain Hotshot, served as a consultant).

The press conference below starts at about 4:00.

The movie opens nationwide October 20, 2017.

Owner of ranch that was thought to be safety zone at Yarnell Hill Fire writes book

It is believed by many that the 19 members of the Granite Mountain Hot Shots that died in Arizona on the Yarnell Hill Fire in 2013 were hiking to a private ranch near the fire, which was thought to be a bomb-proof safety zone. While still hundreds of yards away, they were overrun by the rapidly spreading fire pushed by shifting outflow winds from a thunderstorm.

One of the owners of the ranch, DJ Helm, has written a book about their experiences before, during and after the fire. Below is an excerpt from the book, Fire on the Wind, published with permission.


We didn’t know it was coming, that fire on the wind, but we did know it was blazing out of control way over to the north of us along the base of the distant mountains. I had gone to our front window to check its progress just before we sat down for lunch on that unusually hot Sunday afternoon of June 30, 2013.

We weren’t overly concerned about it as we watched the aerial attacks of water and crimson retardant being dumped in that area. The fire was definitely burning away from us and looked as if it had burned itself out on the mountainous state land to the northwest of our house where it started.Fire On The Wind book yarnell hill fire

I had so looked forward to our three-day Grand Canyon vacation that began Thursday, June 27, 2013. Then right in the middle of it came the phone call. It was early Friday evening, June 28th, and there was smoke on the mountain above our house. The neighbor who called said it was caused by lightning from thunderstorms booming in the skies over Yarnell and Glen Ilah.

Lightning struck on the tallest mountain’s ridge near time-sculpted boulders barely visible above thick native vegetation. Having been deprived of adequate rain for several years it was bone-dry, a volatile wildfire-prone condition. Local fire departments began receiving a flood of calls from those who saw the first smoke. Everyone within the comfortable circle was confident the problem would be taken care of as they continued to go about their daily routines for the next two days.

Judging by first impressions, an aerial report noted it was just a couple of acres of brush burning among a pile of rocks up there; not much of a threat. The rough terrain would be accessible by helicopter only and darkness was setting in; there would be no action taken at that time. It was the beginning of the Yarnell Hill Fire—and we weren’t home.

Sunday afternoon, June 30th, we were back home, and shortly after 4:00 pm the unimaginable happened. Firefighters and residents alike were caught off guard when the northbound fire was clutched by a ferocious storm brandishing strong southbound winds, suddenly turning it around, driving it in this direction. Pushing forward at a speed many firefighters had never experienced, there was no chance of stopping the powerful epic phenomenon. The wind-driven torch swathed across boulder-strewn valleys and over mountains heading toward our communities and the Granite Mountain Interagency Hotshots, trapping them in a flat-bottomed, three-sided box canyon.

In a flash, smoke and flames engulfed the neighborhoods, causing unprepared occupants to flee the fast-approaching wall of fire. Leaving everything behind except a few personal items grabbed in haste, desperate residents were forced to evacuate as the blaze chased them out. Driving through blinding smoke along twisting narrow streets, crawling bumper-to-bumper away from the advancing inferno, a steady stream of traffic surged onto State Route 89. With the Sheriff’s Department’s assistance and neighbors helping neighbors, everyone made it out safely. Everyone but 19 of the Hotshots.

By happenstance we were most likely the first civilians to be made aware of the 19 young men’s deaths. One of the other firefighters told me about the tragedy later after several of them hiked down here from the fatality site. I was standing by the house, staring in disbelief at the devastation surrounding us in every direction, when he walked up behind me. He wanted to know how to get back in here so they could recover the Hotshots’ bodies from the side of the mountain.

The unrestrained Yarnell Hill Fire became one of the deadliest in U.S. history, swiftly taking thousands of acres that Sunday afternoon. Desecrating the pristine high-desert countryside, it left naked, blackened boulders behind as well as 127 burned-out homes in Yarnell and Glen Ilah. Several buildings on a ranch in Peeples Valley were also burned. Amazingly, though it was harrowingly close for so many of them, no civilians were lost.

Tragically, 19 of the 20 Granite Mountain Hotshots’ lives were cruelly taken. They had descended from the mountain top and perished in a box canyon one-third of a mile from our home and about a mile southeast of where the lightning had started the fire. Before long the fatality site was enclosed within a chain-link fence. Outside the fenced area to the north a flagpole was erected, which began flying American and Arizona flags.

This book is about our personal experience with the Yarnell Hill Fire and the first hectic weeks that turned into months—now years—as fire officials, police, forest service investigators, government officials, and family members—by this time well over two thousand people—have come up our driveway, through our property, and over the newly-cut bulldozer line to the site.


Fire on the Wind is available from Amazon in full color with 100 color images, and in black and white.

“They were heroes — highly skilled professionals”

(Originally published at 7:35 p.m. MDT September 27, 2017)

Today I was looking back at what I wrote at 6:15 p.m. MDT June 30, 2013, the day 19 firefighters were killed in the line of duty on the Yarnell Hill Fire south of Prescott, Arizona. What initially got my interest was the fact that a fire that had been burning for only about 48 hours had ordered a Type 1 Incident Management Team — a little unusual, but not unheard of, for a young fire.

That evening I found some intermittent live video from ABC15, a photo posted on Twitter by Jeffrey Blackburn (@lensjb) showing very active fire behavior, and a post by @wildfirediva saying three large air tankers and two Very Large Air Tankers were working the fire.

But the one that really got my attention was this:

Below are portions of a statement released by President Obama the next day:

…They were heroes — highly-skilled professionals who, like so many across our country do every day, selflessly put themselves in harm’s way to protect the lives and property of fellow citizens they would never meet. … But today, Michelle and I join all Americans in sending our thoughts and prayers to the families of these brave firefighters and all whose lives have been upended by this terrible tragedy.

Yarnell Hill Fire firefighters killed
The 19 firefighters from the Granite Mountain Hotshots that were killed on the Yarnell Hill Fire.

I continued to update the story on a near-real-time basis for the next five days.

Now as October 20 grows closer I have been thinking more frequently about what happened 1573 days before that date.

On October 20 a movie “based on the true story of the Granite Mountain Hotshots” will be widely released — Only the Brave. Many firefighters, former firefighters, and those closely associated with those 19 individuals are apprehensive about this, perhaps for a variety of reasons. How will the producers, writers, actors, and the director treat this event that that still deeply touches a large number of people? Can a for-profit company make a commercial movie about a very sensitive fatal incident that does not take advantage of deep-seated feelings and in some instances mild or serious cases of posttraumatic stress disorder?

Only the Brave movie

The film is not a documentary, so it is a given that it will take liberties with the actual facts. It has to tell a story, and most movie treatments have a conflict that eventually is resolved — or not. What will that conflict be in this adaptation of the story?

Many of the outdoor scenes were shot in northern New Mexico in the Santa Fe area where the fuels and terrain are very different from the fatality site on the Yarnell Hill Fire south of Prescott, Arizona.

And, the objective of the makers of the project, Black Label Media, Columbia Pictures, and Sony, is to make money.

These issues do not mean it can’t be a great film after which most moviegoers will leave feeling uplifted, or at least satisfied that the events and the real people involved, many still alive today, were treated fairly and honestly.

This project is not unprecedented. There have probably been hundreds of movies made based on real events in which dozens or hundreds of people died. Some were great, and others were not.

Little real information about the movie has been disclosed. There have been a couple of trailers, mostly based on action scenes. I have not seen anything about the story behind the action, or what drives the characters.

There have been a few quotes from actors and a producer that have been encouraging. The word “hero” has been used in describing the Hotshots. Here’s the official description of the film:

It’s not what stands in front of you… it’s who stands beside you. Only the Brave, based on the true story of the Granite Mountain Hotshots, is the heroic story of one unit of local firefighters that through hope, determination, sacrifice, and the drive to protect families, communities, and our country become one of the most elite firefighting teams in the nation.  As most of us run from danger, they run toward it – they watch over our lives, our homes, everything we hold dear, as they forge a unique brotherhood that comes into focus with one fateful fire.

Molly Smith, an executive with Black Label Media, said it’s the film she’s most proud of:

We hope you feel, when you see it, as patriotic and proud as we have to have some of the greatest firefighters in the world constantly putting themselves out there for our well being. The ones who have lost their lives we honor respectfully every day, and the ones who wake up covered with dirt and ash and stale coffee on their breath (and always a ribbing laughter) we salute you again and again and again. I hope you feel we have represented you well.

A few weeks ago in an Entertainment Weekly interview, Josh Brolin (Eric Marsh, Crew Superintendent in the film) who for a while was a volunteer firefighter in Arizona, talked about how the actors in the movie still maintain regular contact even after the filming ended a year ago:

This was different, probably because of the subject matter. Nobody’s willing to let it go.

The film has the potential to have some realistic elements. At least one former Granite Mountain Hotshot provided advice as it was being made. The firefighter-actors participated in a multi-day fire boot camp before filming began. The pictures I have seen show the actors wearing typical wildland firefighting gear, and Granite Mountain Hotshot’s actual crew buggies were used.

A new foundation has been created apparently by the film’s producers, called the Granite Mountain Fund, described as a “philanthropic initiative of ONLY THE BRAVE”. The website promises that 98.5 percent of the donated funds will go to one of six organizations, including the Wildland Firefighter Foundation, the Eric Marsh Foundation, and Prescott Firefighter’s Charities.

Granite Mountain Fund

New featurette released for “Only the Brave” movie

(Originally published at 9 a.m. MDT September 12, 2017)

A new three and a half minute featurette has been released for the film about the Yarnell Hill Fire, Only the Brave, which is billed as the “true story of the Granite Mountain Hotshots”.

On June 30, 2013 19 members of the firefighters on the crew were killed after the wind shifted and they were overrun by the fire.

In July a two and a half minute trailer was released, but this version adds a few scenes including very brief interviews with one of the producers, a former Granite Mountain Hotshot, and some of the leading actors. As the featurette ends, Josh Brolin who plays Crew Superintendent Eric Marsh says to the camera:

Every person who sees this movie is gonna want to wave a little bit longer to every firefighter they see.

As the vignette ends there is a graphic encouraging viewers to donate to the “Granite Mountain Fund”, which is an organization new to us. The fund’s web site describes their intentions…..

“The Philanthropic initiative of the film “Only the Brave,” drives donations to support firefighting as well as the towns and families connected to and impacted by hotshots and their work.

“Donations for the Granite Mountain Fund will benefit the following organizations:

  • Wildland Firefighter Foundation
  • Eric Marsh Foundation
  • Kevin Woyjeck Explorers Foundation
  • Prescott Firefighter’s Charities
  • California Firefighters Foundation
  • Carry the Load”

The film will open in theaters October 20.

New movie poster for “Only the Brave”

 

only the brave
“Only the Brave” opens in theaters October 20, 2017.

In about seven weeks the new movie “based on the true story of the Granite Mountain Hotshots” will be in theaters. In 2013, 19 members of the crew were entrapped and killed on the Yarnell Hill Fire south of Prescott, Arizona.

Not many many movies have been built around wildland firefighters. There was Red Skies of Montana that in 1952 introduced the myth of exploding trees, and Firestorm brought us Howie Long in 1998. Always was a good movie, but it was not really about wildland fire. So, many of us will be skeptical while waiting for Only the Brave to open on October 20.

However, there are reasons to be optimistic. Black Label Media which produced the film also made the award winning La La Land (Golden Globe Best Picture, Musical or Comedy), a story that could not be more different from Only the Brave, but it at least indicates that skilled personnel are employed by the company.

Molly Smith, an executive with Black Label, said it’s the film she’s most proud of. On her Instagram page she wrote:

We hope you feel, when you see it, as patriotic and proud as we have to have some of the greatest firefighters in the world constantly putting themselves out there for our well being. The ones who have lost their lives we honor respectfully every day, and the ones who wake up covered with dirt and ash and stale coffee on their breath (and always a ribbing laughter) we salute you again and again and again. I hope you feel we have represented you well.

The film has quite a few well-known actors, including Josh Brolin (plays Eric Marsh), Jeff Bridges (Duane Steinbrink), Jennifer Connelly (Amanda Marsh), Andie McDowell, Miles Teller (Brendan McDonough), and James Badge Dale.

In an Entertainment Weekly interview, Mr. Brolin, who for a while was a volunteer firefighter in Arizona, talked about how the actors in the movie still maintain regular contact:

This was different, probably because of the subject matter. Nobody’s willing to let it go.

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: Ericmarshfoundation.org 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