White hearses carried 19 fallen Arizona firefighters on a 100-mile journey home on Sunday. The hearses traveled as part of a convoy from Phoenix to the crew’s hometown of Prescott.
They were accompanied by police motorcycle outriders and onlookers who saluted, waved American flags, and shed tears in honor of the 19 Granite Mountain Hotshots, who were killed while battling the Yarnell Hill Fire last week.
The hearses pulled away from the Maricopa county Medical Examiner’s office shortly after noon as an honor guard of firefighters and police officers stood at attention to send them on their way home.
The convoy passed under a US flag suspended from crossed fire ladders as it departed Phoenix on a 100-mile journey north toward Prescott Valley.
The 19 fallen firefighters were almost all of the Prescott Fire Department’s Granite Mountain Hotshots team. All but one of the team members became trapped on June 30 when their position was overtaken by the fast-moving wildfire. And while their family and friends grieved, so did onlookers who watched the fallen firefighters return home.
Onlooker Richard Galaviz spoke to reporters with emotion in his voice, saying, “They gave up their lives to save other lives. The leas I can do is come here and pay my respects so that they can go back home and get rest.”
Each of the 19 white hearses bore the name of a fallen firefighter on its side. They traveled through Yarnell, the tiny town the firemen gave their lives to protect. From there, the convoy drove to Prescott, where crowds lined the sidewalks to welcome the fallen firefighters home.
The firefighters’ deaths marked the largest loss of life of firefighters since September 11, 2001. It was also the greatest loss of life from a wildfire in the US since more than 25 men died fighting the Griffith Park fire in 1933.
Now that the fallen Arizona firefighters have returned home, a memorial service will be held on Tuesday to honor them.