Firefighters line the highway leading from Yarnell as the vehicles used by fallen Granite Mountain Hotshot crew members to fight the Yarnell Hill Fire are driven back to their base in Prescott. (Source: CBS 5 News)
Firefighters across the nation paused to honor the 19 members of the Granite Mountain Hotshot crew members who died during the Yarnell Hill Fire on Sunday.
Firefighters in Arizona and elsewhere observed a moment of silence as the vehicles of the 19 men were driven from the area in front of firefighters who lined both sides of the highway near Yarnell on Wednesday morning.
Whittington said the procession and the moment of silence provided the opportunity for everyone to stop and think about the dangers firefighters face every day, and to remember the fallen, not just from the Yarnell Hill Fire, but others.
"One thing that defines the firefighting communities is that we don't forget," Whittington said. "We make it a point to remember." He listed a number of wildfire tragedies in which firefighters have died in the line of duty. "And we'll remember this one."
The fire claimed the lives of 19 Hotshots when wind whipped the flames into a firestorm, trapping the firefighters with no chance for escape.
"When something like this happens, it weighs on everybody," he said. "It does make this fire much different than other fires. I think people really want to put this to bed and get rid of it.
"It doesn't matter if you're walking 12 flights of stairs or a mountain, they share a brotherhood and it affects everyone," Whittington said.
Of the nearly 600 people assigned to the Yarnell Hill Fire, 65 percent to 70 percent of them are firefighters "on the ground," Whittington said.
The vehicles were being driven back to Prescott, where the Hotshots were stationed.
Copyright 2013 CBS 5 (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.
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