Members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots shared a common bond of hard work and arduous adventure, according to the city of Prescott.
Eighteen members of the team were killed Sunday while battling a 2,000-acre wildfire fueled by hot and dry conditions near the central Arizona town of Yarnell. It's not known where the 19th victim was based.
"We're devastated," said Prescott Fire Chief Dan Fraijo. "We just lost 19 of the finest people you'll ever meet. We're in crisis."
The team had its start as a mitigation crew in 2002. In 2004, Crew 7 was formed. Then in 2008, it transitioned into an elite Hotshot community.
"This crew travels all over the U.S.," said wildfire consultant Eric Neitzel on Monday morning. "They are actually a national resource. They are one of 100 hotshots dispatched out of Boise, ID, not just locally."
According to the city, team members were routinely exposed to extreme environmental conditions and long work hours accomplishing the most demanding of fireline tasks.
Problem solving, teamwork, ability to make decisions in a stressful environment and being nice were attributes of the crew members, the city said.
The team was part of the Prescott Fire Department, which is the oldest in the state.
The nature of their work required members to endure physical hardships beyond most people's experiences, the city said.
"These firefighters were killed in what is probably worst disaster that has taken place in wildland history in Arizona," Fraijo said. "We grieve for the families, we grieve for the department, we grieve for the city."
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