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Ariz. firefighter deaths hit home in C.O.

By Kim Tobin
Published On: Jul 01 2013 08:28:14 PM CDT
Updated On: Jul 01 2013 09:47:30 PM CDT

NewsChannel 21's Kim Tobin, who is from Prescott, spoke with friends who knew some of the 19 firefighters killed fighting a wildfire over the weekend.

BEND, Ore. -

A wildfire in northern Arizona killed 19 firefighters over the weekend, many of them from Prescott. On Monday, several people talked about the fallen heroes, celebrating their lives and the sacrifice they made to keep others safe.

The flames spread quickly through the forests of northern Arizona, taking the lives of 19 elite firefighters in the blink of an eye. One of those Granite Mountain Hotshots was a married father of four, Andrew Ashcraft.

"We love him," his friend Sam Wheeler said, as he choked back tears.

Like many people in Prescott, Wheeler went on Facebook when he heard about the tragedy, expressing sorrow for a friend's life taken too soon.

"He was just a kind person," Wheeler said. "He cared about others a lot. And it was evident just in how he treated you. He was always quiet and he always listened well."

David Myers, from Prescott, now lives in Bend, so the story hits close to home.

"I immediately called my five closest friends from back home that still live there," Myers said. "It was a pretty quiet conversation on the phone. We were just in shock and awe of what happened."

Myers said he lost a good friend this weekend. Robert Caldwell died fighting the flames. He was young man, recently married, with his whole life ahead of him.

"He was such a jokester and such a great guy," Myers said. "He could just say one thing to you, and turn your whole day around."

From the outpouring on several social media sites, the tight-knit community of Prescott has already come together to remember and celebrate the lives of the heroes who died.

"My prayers and love go out to his family," Myers said. "And all 19 of those guys. It's just terrible. It's horrible to see that happen."

"You know, that's our home," Sam Wheeler said. "Those are our people. And when it just happens like that, it's just gut-wrenching."

If you'd like to donate to help the families affected by this tragedy, visit the Wildland Firefighter Foundation at http://www.wffoundation.org/

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