Tribute center preserves memories of Granite Mountain Hotshot members who died in the Yarnell Fire

Nearly five years ago, Arizona lost 19 of its own, when the Granite Mountain Hotshots paid the ultimate sacrifice while fighting the Yarnell Fire.

On Friday, those 19 people were honored in a big way.

"This is a special day not only for Prescott, it's a special day, we think, for Arizona," said Gary Cohen.

It's a project that is seven months in the making. On Friday, that project became a reality, when the Granite Mountain Interagency Hotshot Crew Learning and Tribute Center was opened to the public at the Prescott Gateway Mall.

"These guys were different," said Board Chairman John Marsh. "They slept on the ground for two weeks straight, didn't bathe for two weeks, worked 24 hour, sometimes 12 to 14 hour shifts."

Marsh's son, Eric Marsh, was among the 19 who died on June 30, 2013, while battling the Yarnell Fire.

"He's a North Carolina boy, an Appalachian State graduate who started hotshotting during his summer vacations, and after graduation, he came back out here and made a career out of it," said Marsh.

Inside the center are pictures and stories of these men, as well as shirts left behind from fellow hotshots paying their respects.

"There's over 1,000 T-Shirts, over 10,000 items and they'll be continually rotating," said Marsh.

The mall donated the space for the center free of charge. Organizers, however, are hoping to have a permanent building in the coming years. People came from all over the state on Friday to honor these heroes, making sure they're never forgotten.

"I think it's amazing," said Cohen. "The photos, the stories, just seeing everybody here coming together, it's what a real community does."

Also at the center are information on how to prevent forest fires. Organizers are hoping to educate people, so something like the this hopefully won't happen again.

Granite Mountain Interagency Hotshot Crew Learning and Tribute Center