Brendan McDonough, 21, is the lone survivor of the 20-man team that went into the Yarnell Hill Fire as it spread throughout central Arizona. The Granite Mountain Hotshots, an elite firefighting team trained to go into forest fires on foot, lost 19 firefighters to the fire on Sunday.
Here is what you need to know about the tragic incident’s lone survivor:
1. He Was the Lookout
According to Wade Ward, the spokesman for the Prescott Fire Department, McDonough was acting as a the lookout while the crew was down along the fire line. He was positioned within a mile or two of the rest of the team on a high position watching the fire’s progression.
2. The Lookout’s Job is to Watch the Fire
Wade Ward said that McDonough’s task was to establish set “trigger” points and radio if the fire were to cross any of the points and endanger the crew.
3. He Radioed a Warning
According to Wade Ward:
He [McDonough] had radioed that his trigger point had been reached and so he radioed the crew and told them that he was leaving. As he was leaving, he had stated that the winds had changed so fast and picked up so fast that his trigger point was burned over within three minutes.
After the winds shifted, the crew apparently had no time to escape before they were trapped and overrun by the fire.
4. He is “Very Distraught”
By all accounts, McDonough is incredibly devastated and “very distraught” about the incident. While fire officials are still trying to figure out what happened, Warde reminded the public that, “He [McDonough] did exactly what he’s supposed to do and the crew did exactly what they’re supposed to do. There’s nobody to blame. This is an accident.”
5. He is only 21
McDonough is on the younger side of the age spectrum for the Granite Mountain Hotshots. He is only 21-years-old, but his position means he is very experienced for his age. The Forest Service stipulates that a lookout is someone with, “considerable experience.”