The only surviving firefighter of the Arizona “hotshot” crewwho survived the deadly Yarnell Hills fire in June has spoken out about the tragedy for the first time publicly.
Brendan McDonough was part of the elite team of firefighters, called the Granite Mountain Hotshots, that battled a massive wildfire in Yarnell, Ariz. in June.
In his first interview since the disaster, McDonough told Good Morning America that he has “asked a million times why am I sitting here and why aren’t they sitting here with me.”
In June, the Yarnell wildfire quickly grew out of control, and shifting winds sent the flames in the direction of McDonough’s colleagues. The fire overtook them, and all 19 of the hotshots battling the flames died. They deployed their emergency shelters at the last minute, but it was too late.
McDonough has since had to go on without his team. He survived because the team’s captain had asked him to be a lookout away from the fire.
When asked if he was a hero, McDonough replied: “I look at a hero as someone who laid their life down.” He also recounted how he heard the firefighters’ phones ringing after they were discovered dead, “knowing that it’s their wives, their family.”
One widow of a deceased firefighter has reportedly been denied lifetime benefits afforded to full-time firefighters who lose their lives in the line of duty. Her husband worked a 40-hour week year-round and made a full-time salary, but the city argues that he was a seasonal employee, CBS News reported. She’s now considering a lawsuit.
The full video of McDonough’s interview is embedded below:
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