Park, trail dedicated to 19 fallen Arizona firefighters - Tucson News Now

Park, trail dedicated to 19 fallen Arizona firefighters

The members of the elite firefighting team were killed battling one of the state's most devastating wildfires on June 30, 2013.  (Source: Arizona State Parks) The members of the elite firefighting team were killed battling one of the state's most devastating wildfires on June 30, 2013. (Source: Arizona State Parks)
(Source: KPHO/KTVK) (Source: KPHO/KTVK)
'We all have a special place in our hearts for our firefighters. They’re humble, selfless and brave,' Gov. Doug Ducey said at Tuesday morning's dedication. (Source: KPHO/KTVK) 'We all have a special place in our hearts for our firefighters. They’re humble, selfless and brave,' Gov. Doug Ducey said at Tuesday morning's dedication. (Source: KPHO/KTVK)
(Source: Gov. Ducey) (Source: Gov. Ducey)
(Source: Arizona State Parks) (Source: Arizona State Parks)
YARNELL, AZ (AP) -

A memorial park and a hiking trail were dedicated Tuesday to 19 Arizona elite wildland firefighters who died in 2013 in a brush choked box canyon while battling one of the state's most devastating wildfires.

Relatives of the Granite Mountain Hotshot firefighting team gathered at a trailhead for the somber ceremony dedicating the site as an Arizona state park, where Gov. Doug Ducey said the 3-mile trail and memorial would serve as a lasting tribute to the fallen firefighters' heroism.

"May this always be a sacred place for this community and for this state to honor the lives of those who died protecting us," Ducey said. "And may it always serve as testament to the danger firefighters everywhere face every day. We will never forget."

SLIDESHOW: Park dedication ceremony

WATCH RAW VIDEO: Dedication ceremony

RAW VIDEO: Missing man formation over the park

SLIDESHOW: Granite Mountain Hotshots Memorial State Park

PDF: Granite Mountain Hotshots Memorial State Park Map

"In Arizona, we have always been blessed to have profiles in courage to look up to. The legacy of our military veterans, law enforcement professionals and emergency first responders teaches us all something about how to live a life of service. The Granite Mountain Hotshots, as much as any group, embody that rich history of duty, honor and committing to a greater cause," Ducey said.

"We all have a special place in our hearts for our firefighters. They’re humble, selfless and brave," he continued. "They rise every morning knowing that at a moment’s notice, they could be called into a burning building, a terrorist attack or a mountain set ablaze by Mother Nature. Firemen never think twice about the danger staring them right in the eye. Their sole purpose is to protect us. And while they don’t seek recognition, without question, they’ve earned it."

“These men lived their lives as part of something bigger,” Don Brandt, chairman and CEO of Arizona Public Service, said. “It was in their DNA to be everyday heroes. … Their courage is our protection and we owe a debt of gratitude to them.” 

The firefighters' names were read, accompanied by a ringing of a bell for each.

"The ringing of the bell and the Fire Fighter’s Prayer are two traditions of the fire service which reflect respect and honor to those who gave their lives to their duty," according to the International Association of Fire Fighters.

When I am called to duty, God,
wherever flames may rage,
give me strength to save a life,
whatever be its age.
Help me embrace a little child
before it is too late,
or save an older person from
the horror of that fate.
Enable me to be alert,
and hear the weakest shout,
quickly and efficiently
to put the fire out.
I want to fill my calling,
to give the best in me,
to guard my friend and neighbor,
and protect his property.
And if according to Your will
I must answer death's call,
bless with your protecting hand,
my family one and all.

Only one member of the team, a lookout, survived the June 30, 2013 fire after shifting winds trapped the firefighters near the small town of Yarnell in central Arizona. It was the deadliest day for U.S. fire crews since 9/11 and the worst for wildland firefighters since the 1933 Griffith Park fire of Los Angeles, which killed 29.

Dan Parker, whose son Wade died in the fire, said his return to the site was moving and that he wants to bring others there so they can remember and honor him. The 320-acre park opens to the public on Wednesday.

The park was dedicated after Arizona's state Legislature spent $500,000 in 2014 to buy the land and the nearly 3-mile trail was built from a state highway to the spot where the flames trapped the firefighters.

The trail itself is lined with memorial plaques for each firefighter. It zig-zags from the highway up a steep slope to a ridgeline, then follows the ridgeline to a spot with a view into the canyon where the firefighters were killed.

The trail then descends into the canyon to a memorial site with 19 wire baskets filled with rocks marking the locations where flames overcame the crew. A flagpole is set in the center of a memorial site.

On the day they died, the firefighters were stationed in a relatively safe position on a ridge top.

But for unknown reasons and without notifying anyone, they moved down the mountainside through an unburned area where they were trapped by a wall of flames when winds shifted the fire toward them.

State workplace safety regulators blamed the firefighters' deaths on the Arizona Forestry Division, saying it put protection of property ahead of safety and should have pulled crews out earlier.

A state investigation found that fire officials lacked key personnel to battle the Yarnell fire at critical moments. An earlier investigation commissioned by the Arizona Forestry Division found that state fire officials communicated poorly but followed proper procedures.

The state paid a dozen families who sued over the deaths $50,000 each and promised to change how Arizona responds to fires and trains its fire crews. The survivors also received insurance and other benefits.

The fire also burned 127 homes, and people who lost them have sued the state.

RELATED:

PDF: Granite Mountain Hotshots Memorial State Park Map

© 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. 

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