PRESCOTT, Ariz. (FOX 10) — It has been six years since the Yarnell Hill Wildfire claimed the lives of 19 Granite Mountain Hotshots. On Sunday, a memorial was held in honor of those we lost.
The Hotshots were battling the deadly wildfire when they were overrun by the flames. The team deployed fire shelters, but the fire was just too intense.
A town full of resilience remembers what happened six years ago on this day, honoring the 19 fallen Granite Mountain Hotshots who died fighting the Yarnell Hill Fire and unveiling a memorial park.
It's hard to measure how much this even truly means to the community. Dozens gathered to see the progress of the park that's not finished yet. But it's a symbol of gratitude for Yarnell.
The Yarnell Hill Fire destroyed 127 homes, forcing many families to evacuate. And it's taken time to recovery, but this town has come together the park shows exactly that. The Yarnell Hill Recovery Group has been working on this for five years. They're also selling shirts to keep funds going.
We've heard from several speakers so far including Lew Theokas, grandfather of fallen firefighter Garret Zuppiger. He read all 19 names out loud, but says this memorial honors everyone who risked their lives in the Yarnell fire.
"People lost everything, all they held dear," Theokas said. "And many of them moved away, never to return, so it changed their lives. We had hundreds of firefighters here fighting the fire. This park is in gratitude to them as well."
Theokas was a volunteer firefighter who hoped to help fight the Yarnell Hill Fire six years ago like his grandson, Zuppiger.
"I mean, I wouldn't have been a Hotshot, don't get me wrong, I would have been on the same fire, which I think would have been really cool - didn't happen that way," Theokas said.
Zuppiger lost his life along with 18 others - the Yarnell 19, fighting the deadliest wildland fire for US firefighters in 80 years. One Granite Mountain Hotshot survived.
No one in this park has forgotten, especially Theokas who now fights life with a little extra help on his side.
"He's not on my mind, he's over my shoulder," Theokas said. "He's keeping his eye on me, that's what I believe."
The park is yet to be finished. It's estimated to cost $375,000 dollars to complete.
Yarnell Area Resource Group
The 19 fallen Granite Mountain Hotshots: Andrew Ashcraft, Robert Caldwell, Travis Carter, Dustin Deford, Christopher MacKenzie, Eric Marsh, Grant McKee, Sean Misner, Scott Norris, Wade Parker, John Percin, Anthony Rose, Jesse Steed, Joe Thurston, Travis Turbyfill, William Warneke, Clayton Whitted, Kevin Woyjeck, Garret Zuppiger