The only survivor of the Arizona wildland blaze that killed 19 members of a firefighting crew appeared briefly Tuesday night a candle light vigil at Prescott High School in Arizona.
Irish American firefighter Brendan McDonough, 21, remains in seclusion and has asked for privacy after Prescott, Ariz., officials confirmed he was the only member of the Granite Mountain Hotshot crew to survive Sunday’s deadly blaze.
The Granite Mountain Hotshots were an elite fire fighting team, trained to go into forest fires on foot. The Huffington Post reports the Hotshot team had spent recent weeks fighting fires in New Mexico and Prescott before being called to Yarnell.
According to the Daily Mail McDonough was in his third season with the 20-member Prescott-based firefighting team.
He was assigned to be a ‘heads-up on the hillside’ for the crew on Sunday afternoon, Wade Ward, a Prescott Fire Department spokesman explained.
“He [McDonough] had radioed that his trigger point had been reached and so he radioed the crew and told them that he was leaving. As he was leaving, he had stated that the winds had changed so fast and picked up so fast that his trigger point was burned over within three minutes."
Ward said McDonough “did exactly what he was supposed to' when conditions changed as his team fought the mountain blaze near the town of Yarnell, about 80 miles northwest of Phoenix.”
Some of the loudest cheers came from the crowd when Ward asked the media to respect McDonough's privacy.
McDonough “has no desire to speak to anybody at this point,' he said. 'He's trying to deal with the same things that we're all trying to deal with, but you can understand how that's compounded being there on the scene.”
“Thank you all for the love and support,” McDonough wrote on Facebook.
"He is very distraught, as you might think," said Wade Ward, a Fire Department spokesman. "He is very emotional. He's got all the questions, the why and the why not. He's concerned for the families mostly. I can tell you Brendan has no desire to speak to anybody at this point."
In Prescott, Arizona, Juliann Ashcraft, wife of Andrew Ashcraft, one of the fallen firefighters, talked about McDonough on Tuesday.
"I hope that he knows we love him," she said.
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