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Members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots, an elite group of wildland firefighters based in Prescott, Ariz. Ashe native and ASU grad Eric Marsh, 43, was killed Sunday battling the Yarnell Hill fire, according to his father, John Marsh. Photo submitted.

Originally published: 2013-07-01 23:40:35
Last modified: 2013-07-02 13:43:18

ASU grad among 19 killed in Ariz. fire

Ashe County native Eric Marsh, 43, of Prescott, Ariz., was among the 19 firefighters killed Sunday battling the Yarnell Hill fire northwest of Phoenix.

Marsh, a graduate of Ashe Central High School and Appalachian State University, was the superintendent of Granite Mountain Hotshots, a Prescott, Ariz.-sponsored crew of elite wildland firefighters.

"It's obviously still under investigation," said his father, John Marsh, "but what I'm being told is they were on direct attack on the fire line trying to save Yarnell. We had a monsoon storm come through with (high winds), and the fire changed direction in just a matter of minutes."

Marsh said the firefighters attempted to deploy the fire protection bags they carry with them, but said the blaze was too intense to save their lives.

"That's the best they been able to tell us at this point," Marsh said.

Eric Marsh was a firefighter for more than two decades, and a member of the Granite Mountain Hotshots for the past eight, according to his father.

"My wife, Jane, and I would like to thank everybody back home in (Ashe County) that are supporting us," Marsh said.

Marsh was the oldest of the crew members killed. The youngest was 21. Several media outlets have reported that one man on the 20-person team survived because he was moving the crew's vehicle.

The massive wildfire started June 28 with a lightning strike. The fire has burned about 200 structures, mostly homes, as it spread about 13 square miles, according to media reports.

Ariz. Gov. Jan Brewer called the incident "as dark a day as I can remember" and ordered the state's flags flown at half-staff through today.

President Barack Obama called Brewer Monday for an update on the fire and to express his condolences for the 19 firefighters who died and those still working to respond to the blaze.

FEMA has approved fire management assistance grants for the Yarnell Hill fire, and additional airtankers, engines and helicopters have been deployed to assist.

"This day will be eternally etched in Arizona's memory," Brewer said in a statement released Monday. "It will forever ring as one of our state's darkest, most devastating days. It will forever remind us of the constant peril our firefighters selflessly face protecting us. We can never repay these 19 men and their families for their service and the ultimate sacrifice they made on our behalf. We can, however, offer them our deepest, eternal debt of gratitude."


-- Kellen Short contributed to this story.

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