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Lone Hotshot survivor gives account of deadly wildfire

(CBS News) We got a firsthand account Wednesday of what happened June 30, when 19 Hotshot firefighters were killed battling a wildfirenear Yarnell, Ariz.

Brendan McDonough was acting as a lookout the day a wildfire killed his 19 Hotshot team members in Arizona.
Brendan McDonough was acting as a lookout the day a wildfire killed his 19 Hotshot team members in Arizona.
The Daily Courier

Twenty-one-year-old Brendan McDonough was the lookout the day fire swept over his team. He spoke with The Daily Courier newspaper in Prescott, Ariz.

"My captain had reached me on the radio saying that we're gonna expect 180-degree wind shift, and that we can expect wind gusts up to 50 to 60 miles per hour, and once I heard that I knew the fire was going to change rapidly and he understood that too," McDonough said.

"As I looked back to see how they're doing, I turned around and I could already see the wind had shifted," he recalled. "I turned around and I looked back at the fire and I could already see the smoke building, and it was starting to gain a lot of potential to move toward us."

McDonough had to move from fire being pushed by gusting winds.

Watch: Arizona Hotshots' families denied lifetime benefits, below.

"I relayed the info back to my captain, and he told me, 'I can see what's going on, Brendan, just make sure you're safe, make sure everything is good for you.'"

Radio traffic made it clear his friends were trapped and deploying their fire shelters as a desperate move to protect themselves from the flames.

"And that was the last time I heard my superintendent's voice," McDonough said. "I was crushed, mentally and emotionally. I didn't know what to do. Everyone on that fire wanted to do everything they could and they did, it was just a horrible freak accident."

McDonough also said he hopes the community will continue to support the families of the fallen Hotshots. Arizona lawmakers are now preparing a bill that would give lifetime benefits to the families of the 13 Hotshots that were initially denied coverage because they were not full-time employees.