Joe Thurston, 32, is among the 19 firefighters who died on June 30 defending Arizona from the deadly Yarnell Hill Fire as it spread over dry terrain. The Utah native was one of the older members of the elite Granite Mountain Hotshots, a crew trained to confront wildfires head-on and prevent their spread.
Here’s what you should know about this heroic firefighter:
1. He Had Two Sons
Joe Thurston had a wife, Marsena, and two young sons. Their names are Ethan and his younger brother is Collin.
2. He was From Cedar City, Utah
According to the Salt Lake Tribune, Joe Thurston was raised in Cedar City, Utah, a small city with a population of around 30,000. Thurston met his wife in Utah before the two moved together to Arizona.
3. Thurston Was a Daredevil
The Salt Lake Tribune interviewed many of Joe Thurston’s childhood and lifelong friends to discover what characteristics made the fallen hero so special. One longtime friend, Scoot Goodrich, said Thurston was a daredevil who skateboarded, went cliff-jumping, and as an adolescent used to sneak into their school pool to have late-night pool parties.
4. He and Hotshot Jesse Steed Were Both from Utah
Joe Thurston was not the only Hotshot with ties to Utah. According to Salt Lake City’s KUTV, Jesse Steed, the captain of the Granite Mountain Hotshots, also hailed from Utah before joining the Marines and eventually moving to Arizona.
5. Only the Most Elite Can Be on a Hotshot Crew
The Hotshots are like the Navy SEALs of firefighters. Inter-agency Hotshot Crews specialize in going into fire areas on foot and clearing swaths to rob the fire of fuel and prevent its spread.
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.