Andrew Ashcraft, 29, was among the 19 members of the elite Granite Mountain Hotshots crew who died this week battling the Yarnell Hill Fire outside of Prescott, Arizona, when they were overwhelmed by the fast-moving blaze.
Here is what you need to know about this hero and family man:
1. He Had Four Children
Along with his wife Juliann Ashcraft, who gave the heartfelt Today interview above, Ashcraft is leaving behind four young children. His wife said in the interview that his three boys and one girl consider him a hero.
2. He Won Rookie of the Year in 2011
Ashcraft had only been with the Hotshots for a few years, as we can surmise from Juliann Ashcraft’s comments about her husband’s decorated career as an elite firefighter. In her interview with Today, the devastated mother-of-four said that her husband earned the title of “Rookie of the Year” from the Hotshots in 2011.
3. His Last Text Message Was to His Wife
On the day Ashcraft and 18 other Hotshots died in the Yarnell Hill Fire, he reportedly had a text message conversation with his wife. Among the “I Love You’s” and “I Miss You’s” that Juliann Ashcraft exchanged with her husband, he also texted her the photograph above of the crew heading toward the last fire they would ever fight.
4. His Mother Gave an Interview
In the emotional interview above, Ashcraft’s mother recalled his devotion to helping people, his love of family, and what she knows about her son’s final moments.
5. Only the Most Elite Can Be on a Hotshot Crew
The Hotshots are like the Navy SEALs of firefighters. Inter-agency Hotshot Crews are groups that specialize in going into fire areas on foot and removing things from their paths that will help prevent the spread and growth of the fire.
The role of the Hotshot is described as:
The name was in reference to being in the hottest part of fires. Their specialty is wildfire suppression, but they are sometimes assigned other jobs, including search and rescue and disaster response assistance. Hotshots not busy fighting fire will also work to meet resource goals on their home units through thinning, prescribed fire implementation, habitat improvement or trail construction projects.
Crews often need to hike many miles to get to the areas where they will be working, carry all of their supplies on their back, and often work over 12 hours a day.