July 4, 2013

A closer look at the 19 Arizona firefighters who died

The Associated Press

PRESCOTT, Ariz. - Nineteen members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots, based in Prescott, were killed Sunday when a windblown wildfire overcame them north of Phoenix. It was the deadliest single day for U.S. firefighters since 9/11. Here are the stories of those who died:

Brendan McDonough
click image to enlarge

Firefighter Brendan McDonough embraces a mourner at a vigil in Prescott, Ariz., on Tuesday night. McDonough is the sole survivor of the Granite Mountain Hotshot Crew that perished in a raging wildfire Sunday. He was serving as a lookout and relaying key information to his colleagues when the fire trapped and killed them, officials said. McDonough, 21, was in his third season with the Hotshots.

The Associated Press

Related headlines


Prescott High School physical education teacher and coach Lou Beneitone taught many of the Hotshots and remembered Andrew Ashcraft, 29, as a fitness-oriented student.

"You could pretty much see, from young freshman all the way, he was going to be physically active."

Beneitone said athletic prowess was a must for the Hotshots. "That's what it takes. You gotta be very physically fit, and you ... gotta like the hard work."

Ashcraft, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, left behind a wife, Juliann, and four children, The Deseret News of Salt Lake City reported.


Friends characterized Robert Caldwell, 23, as the smart man in the bunch.

"He was one of the smart guys in the crew who could get the weather, figure out the mathematics. It was just natural for him," said Chase Madrid, who worked as a Hotshot for two years.

It was Caldwell's intelligence and know-how that got him appointed as a squad boss. His cousin, Grant McKee, al-so was one of the Hotshots killed Sunday.

He had just gotten married in November and had a 5-year-old stepson.


At Captain Crossfit, a gym near the firehouse where the Hotshots were stationed, Travis Carter was known as the strongest one on the crew -- but also the most humble.

"No one could beat him," trainer Janine Pereira said. "But the thing about him was he would never brag about it. He would just kill everyone and then go and start helping someone else finish."

Carter, 31, was famous for once holding a plank for 45 minutes, and he was notorious for making up brutal workouts.


Dustin DeFord, 24, had been a firefighter since he turned 18 and started as a volunteer in tiny Ekalaka, Mont. His father, the Rev. Steve DeFord, said the outpouring of support there has been unbelievable. "We've got enough food in the house to last a year," he said.

DeFord graduated from Cornerstone Bible Institute in Hot Springs, S.D., three years ago, his father said, and always believed God was his guiding force.

DeFord is survived by nine brothers and sisters.


An avid snowboarder, Chris MacKenzie, 30, grew up in California's San Jacinto Valley, where he was a 2001 graduate of Hemet High School and a former member of the town's fire department. He joined the U.S. Forest Service in 2004, then transferred two years ago to the Prescott Fire Department, longtime friend Dav Fulford-Brown told The Riverside Press-Enterprise.

MacKenzie, like at least one other member of the Granite Mountain Hotshots, had followed his father into firefighting. Michael MacKenzie, a former Moreno Valley Fire Department captain, confirmed he had been informed of his son's death.

"I can't talk about it," he said.


Eric Marsh, 43, was an avid mountain biker who grew up in Ashe County, N.C., and became hooked on firefighting while studying at Appalachian State University, said Leanna Racquer, the ex-wife of his cousin.

Marsh lived with Racquer and her then-husband during the winters from 1992 through 1996 in North Carolina but returned to Arizona during fire season.

After college, he kept working as a firefighter, eventually settling in northern Arizona. Marsh was superintendent of the Hotshot crew and the oldest of the 19 who died.

Marsh was married but had no children, said a cousin, Scott Marsh of Pisgah Forest, N.C.

(Continued on page 2)

Were you interviewed for this story? If so, please fill out our accuracy form

Send question/comment to the editors

Further Discussion

Here at PressHerald.com we value our readers and are committed to growing our community by encouraging you to add to the discussion. To ensure conscientious dialogue we have implemented a strict no-bullying policy. To participate, you must follow our Terms of Use.

Questions about the article? Add them below and we’ll try to answer them or do a follow-up post as soon as we can. Technical problems? Email them to us with an exact description of the problem. Make sure to include:
  • Type of computer or mobile device your are using
  • Exact operating system and browser you are viewing the site on (TIP: You can easily determine your operating system here.)