All nineteen firefighters killed in the Yarnell Hill Fire were members of the Prescott-based Granite Mountain Hotshots, an elite team of wildfire specialists. Hotshot teams are like the Navy SEALs of firefighting.Click here to read more
Here’s what you need to know about this hero…
1. Deford Has Been a Firefighter Since He Was 18
— Det Jeff Bangild (@TPSDetBangild) July 2, 2013
Deford’s first job was with the Carter County Rural Fire Department in the tiny town of Ekalaka, in Southeast Montana.
2. He Had Just Joined the Hotshots in 2013
— Abrupt Climate News (@EI_Climate) July 1, 2013
Deford has worked on the Hazardous Fuel Reduction team in Carter County, Montana while also working as a volunteer firefighter. In 2013 he won a spoke on the Granite Mountain Hotshots out of Prescott, Arizona. Carter County Sheriff Neil Kittelmann told the Billings Gazette:
A lot of people wanted to get on the crew he was on, he was real excited, and we were all glad for him.
He wrote on his Facebook page upon being accepted into the Hotshots:
I’ve been chasing wildland fire jobs for a few years and now I have been wondering why I’m doing it. Is it because this is what I want to do, or is it something God is using to prepare me for later in life?
3. Deford Appears to be Deeply Religious
Along with his Twitter profile description which reads:
I am living by the grace of God, not sure where I am going in life, but desiring to follow God in each stage of my life.
He has also tweeted:
Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God…Look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. – 2 Pe …
— Dustin DeFord (@djdeford) April 13, 2012
Praising God I can enjoy another beautiful day
— Dustin DeFord (@djdeford) December 28, 2010
The Billings Gazette reports that Deford also attended the Cornerstone Bible institute in Hot Springs, South Dakota, graduating in 2010.
4. He’s a Second Generation Firefighter
His father, Pastor Steve Deford, introduced his son to firefighter through his volunteer work at the fire department in Ekalaka. He said in the Billings Gazette, that he never saw firefighting as a “vocation,” but just as a way to help the community.
Deford was born in Baltimore, Maryland and moved to Ekalaka, Montana in 1996.
5. Only the Most Elite Can be 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 can sometimes work over 12 hours a day.