Grant McKee was one of the 19 members of the elite Granite Mountain Hotshots that were killed earlier this week when the Yarnell Hill Fire proved too dangerous to control.
Here is what you need to know about this young man who laid down his life to protect others:
1. He Graduated From Fire Academy in 2012
In an article from The Bugle, dated May 10, 2012, Grant Q. McKee’s name appears among a list of Prescott, Arizona students graduating from fire school.The class consisted of a total of 45 cadets finishing Yavapai College Fire Science program and moving on to become trained firefighters.
In a chilling moment of foreshadowing, the article says that the even had originally been scheduled on the eighth, but the fire personnel were called to a fire in Prescott.
2. He Was Only 21 Years Old
Like Kevin Woyjeck, Grant McKee was one of the youngest members of the crew. He was only 21 years old, when he was the fire overtook and killed 19 of the 20 Hotshots on Sunday. The average age of the group is reportedly just 22 years old.
3. McKee Was Involved in His Aunt’s Clothing Store
Grant McKee, along with his aunts, came together to relive his and namesake’s legacy. Grant L. McKee, grandfather of the firefighter lost this week, owned a clothing store in California in the 1960s and so the younger McKee and family opened a similar store in Prescott, Arizona in 2009. The Daily Courier, a local newspaper, ran a story on August 11, 2009 about the business venture saying:
Grant Quinn McKee, 17, is doing for guys what Sutton and Caldwell (McKee’s Aunts) are doing for girls. His side of the store offers a mix of boots, jeans, shoes, and polo shirts, hats, belts and belt buckles. ‘It was a good opportunity to carry on the family tradition of having clothing stores,’ he said.
4. He Was Athletic
Hotshots have to be in peak physical form to be able to hike miles through rough terrain to get to fires, and evidence shows that McKee athleticism out dates his career as a firefighter. Above is 18-year-old Grant McKee’s results in a charity race for colon cancer. With a time of 24:45, the young athlete came in tenth place out of 72 runners.
5. Only the Most Elite Can Make a Hotshot Crew
The Hotshots are like the Navy SEALs of firefighters. Inter-agency Hotshot Crews are groups that specialize in going into wildfire areas on foot and removing things from the fire’s path to 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.