Arizona firefighters' memorial service pays tribute to those lost

PRESCOTT, Ariz. -- Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer highlighted the sacrifice of 19 firefighters who died battling a wildfire, and called each one a son of the state.

Brewer spoke during a memorial service Tuesday in Prescott Valley. She says that while she couldn't truly understand the grief of the families, she'll be praying for them always.

Brewer praised people around the country for responding as she hoped they would - with candlelight vigils, financial contributions, prayers, and flowers and notes placed at makeshift memorials.

The governor had ordered flags flown at half-staff across Arizona for 19 days in honor of the men who died June 30.

She also thanked President Barack Obama for the federal resources used to battle the blaze. Brewer says it's the duty of all Americans to help and protect the firefighters' families.

Vice President Joe Biden,who also spoke at the event, said the 19 Arizona firefighters killed in a wildfire were men of "uncommon valor" who rushed to save a town and gave their lives in the process.

Biden called the members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots some of the most disciplined, tenacious and physically fit men in the world. He added, "Firefighting is not what they did. It was who they were."

Biden praised the firefighters' families for supporting what he called ordinary Americans doing extraordinary things despite the inherent dangers of their jobs.

The surviving member of an Arizona Hotshots crew has honored his fallen team with a prayer, and thanked everyone for their support.

Brendan McDonough on Tuesday read "The Hot Shot's Prayer" in a rhythmic voice that waivered slightly as it mentioned death's call toward the end.

McDonough had been assigned as a lookout on the hillside for his team while they were battling a blaze on a ridge in Yarnell, about 80 miles northwest of Phoenix. He notified the crew of the rapidly changing weather that sent winds swirling erratically and caused the fire to cut off their escape route. Then, he swiftly left his post for safety.

Fire officials have said McDonough did exactly what he was supposed to do.

McDonough spoke briefly after reading the poem at a memorial in Prescott Valley, Ariz., saying he missed his brothers.


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