Brendan McDonough, Hotshot Survivor: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

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

Granite Mountain Hotshots arizona


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

brendan mcdonough lookout arizona

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Forest Service, the job of the “lookout” is to ensure the safety of their crew by watching the movement of 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

Final photograph of Prescott Granite Mountain Hotshots

This is the photo that Andrew Ashcraft texted to his wife on the day he, and 18 other Hotshots were killed. (Facebook)

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.

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4. He is “Very Distraught”

arizona hotshot prescott firemen

Local firemen have an emotional embrace at last night memorial service for the 19 deceased Hotshots. (Getty)

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

Granite Mountain Hotshots, The Granite Mountain Hotshots, Yarnell Hill Fire

The Granite Mountain Hotshots

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.”

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