Heroic Arizona firefighters remembered at memorial service

About 6,000 people - including firefighters near and far -- paid their respects to the 19 Hotshot firefighters who were killed battling a wildfire.
CBS News

(CBS News) PRESCOTT VALLEY, Ariz. - In Arizona on Tuesday, they said goodbye to 19 heroes -- firefighters who put their lives on the line to protect their neighbors.

Firefighters from just down the road, and as far away as Canada, came to honor the 19 Granite Mountain Hot Shots -- their empty fire gear a reminder of their full sacrifice.

"If I could fulfill my fondest wish," Prescott Fire Chief Dan Fraijo told the audience, "it would be that my tears would wash away the pain and loss that we all feel. Rest in peace, my fellow professionals. You will be missed but you'll never, never ever be forgotten."

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About 6,000 people packed the arena. And there were hundreds more outside in the 90-degree heat.

Jacqui Brown drove two hours from Phoenix. "It's very important to me personally," she said. "I just felt the need, I felt pulled to be here to show my respect."

Brendan McDonough -- the only survivor of the 20-man crew -- read the "Hotshots Prayer."

"'For if this day on the line I should answer death's call, Lord,bless my Hotshot crew, my family, one and all. Thank you, and I miss my brothers."

McDonough was the lookout on June 30 as the Hotshots tried to build a fire line between the flames and the town of Yarnell. They became trapped when the wind suddenly changed direction and pushed the fire over them. Their bodies were draped with American flags by those who stood by their remains until it was safe enough to remove them from the ridge.

On Sunday, 19 white hearses brought the crew home to Prescott. The 125-mile route was lined by those wishing to offer their respects and thanks. The people of Yarnell also came home this week to a town that was left unrecognizable.

While they are not yet sure of all they have lost, the toll here is already 19 times more than anyone can bear.

  • Ben Tracy

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