Yarnell To Honor Granite Mountain Hotshots

By Grayson Schmidt
Published: Friday, June 28, 2019 - 5:05am

Seeing coverage of crews battling the Woodbury Fire just east of Phoenix hits home for Yarnell resident Frances Lechner, as only six years ago she witnessed firsthand the effect a wildfire can have. 

“Whenever I see fires in any part of the country anymore, my heart's in my throat for a little bit,” Lechner said. “I remember what it felt like, while we were evacuated; we didn't know whether our house had burned or not. So it's a very emotionally tense time.”

And this Sunday, the community plans to honor the 19 Granite Mountain Hotshots who died battling the Yarnell Hill Fire in 2013.

“I know, I personally, and a number of other residents in town, have been thinking about what my day was like six years ago, when I first heard about a fire,” Lechner said. “We do an anniversary commemoration each year because our town really, fundamentally changed in some significant ways as a result of this fire.”

Lechner is president of the Yarnell Area Resource Group, which helped distribute donations in the aftermath of the Yarnell Hill Fire, the deadliest wildfire in Arizona history.  

The ceremony will take place at 4 p.m. at the Yarnell Hill Fire Memorial Park just south of town and will feature various speakers and a moment of silence at 4:42 p.m., the exact time the hotshots perished in their shelters. 

But Lechner also said the event focuses on how the town of around 650 people endured and survived as well.

“There's a whole other story about this time,” Lechner said. “For some people, their lives were irrevocably changed.”

Yarnell Fire Chief Jeff Shearer said that fire is still on the minds of many of the people of the town, and that this ceremony is as much for the fallen firefighters as it is for the townspeople themselves. 

“It's definitely fresh,” Shearer said. “People still are touched and hurt by the whole situation.”

But he hopes that Sunday’s ceremony reminds people of the dangers firefighters around the country throw themselves into on a daily basis, and the reasons for which they do it.  

“It reminds us of the firefighters and what they were doing for us and what they do every day all across the United States for us,” Shearer said. 

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