Thursday, August 08, 2013

Hot shot survivor opens up to press, talks about tragic events that left 19 firefighters dead

Brendan McDonough, the sole hot shots survivor of the unit that lost 19 firefighters in Arizona, has stayed away from the media since the June 30 incident. But McDonough decided recently to sit down with the The Prescott Daily Courier, which has extensively covered the event, and opened up about his experience and the other members of the crew. The paper's exclusive video, bottom of page, was aired nationally. (Courier photo by Matt Hinshaw: Brendan McDonough)

"I wouldn't have traded the years I spent with those men for anything in this world," McDonough told Joanna Dodder Nellans. "They made me the man, and father I am today. How successful I am physically, emotionally, spiritually - I owe it to them."

While McDonough didn't want to discuss some things that happened that fateful day, he talked openly about his experience, and the role he was assigned to play in fighting the blaze. McDonough's job was to be a lookout, and look "for trigger points that would signal the need to re-evaluate what he and the crew were doing, and whether their positions remained safe," Nellans writes. "As the lookout, Brendan would measure weather conditions hourly, scan radio traffic, watch the fire and the crew, and relay information back to the crew."

He told Nellans, "The fire was moving away from us." But later that afternoon, winds changed 180 degrees. "I could already see the wind had shifted and I had met my trigger point to re-evaluate where I was, and I needed to find a different position. I've never experienced a storm of that magnitude I've never seen winds like that. It literally chooses which way it wants to go. There's nothing that stops it." McDonough said he called his crew, and asked "if they need anything just give me a call and I'll see them soon. And that's the last time I talked to them."

McDonough told Nellans, "When I heard they had to deploy, I was crushed mentally and emotionally. I didn't know what to do...It was just a horrible, freak accident... You know you can die on this job...but it's in the back of your head because if you always think about it, it's going to weigh you down."

McDonough "has seen plenty of news articles about the hotshots, but he doesn't want to talk about them," Nellans writes. McDonough told her, "I'll make a statement that I'll always stand behind my 19 brothers and support them, and I'll make it known that there was no bad decision made. That no one's at fault for what happened. And I will never forget that day, and I'll make sure that they're remembered. I'll make it known that I was there and I know what happened...there was a lot of other people that were there and knew what happened, and that it was just an accident." (Read more)

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