The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

State and Nation

July 9, 2013

Service honors 19 firefighters killed in Ariz fire

(Continued)

"He's trying to deal with the same things that we're all trying to deal with, but you can understand how that's compounded being there on the scene," Ward said last week.

The highly specialized crew was part of a small community of Hotshots nationwide, just about 110 of the 20-person teams mostly stationed west of the Mississippi River.

The blaze had burned about 13 square miles before firefighters gained control over the weekend.

The Tuesday memorial service, "Our Fallen Brothers: A Celebration of Life," will be the last of a handful of vigils for the men before the first of 19 funerals begin later in the week.

As final preparations were being made for the service, hundreds of people who were forced from their homes were allowed to return this week, finding a landscape drastically different than the one they remembered.

Vehicles lined up along the highway into Yarnell well before the evacuation order was lifted at 9 a.m. Monday. Authorities checked everyone's identification to prove their residency so they could have a couple days to sift through the ashes of their homes before the area opens to the public Wednesday.

Small shops that sell antiques, saddles and groceries remained intact, but the fire that broke out June 28 created a patchwork of destruction that destroyed more than 100 homes, many reduced to ashes.

"It's a bittersweet day today, driving through the town and seeing it burnt, and knowing a lot of people don't have homes," said Yarnell resident Tammy Consier.

But, she added: "This is an awesome community, there's going to be beauty from the ashes."

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