The true story behind the events that inspired the major motion picture Only the Brave.
A "unique and bracing" (Booklist) first-person account by the sole survivor of Arizona's disastrous 2013 Yarnell Hill Fire, which took the lives of 19 "hotshots"--firefighters trained specifically to battle wildfires.
Brendan McDonough was on the verge of becoming a hopeless, inveterate heroin addict when he, for the sake of his young daughter, decided to turn his life around. He enlisted in the Granite Mountain Hotshots, a team of elite firefighters based in Prescott, Arizona. Their leader, Eric Marsh, was in a desperate crunch after four hotshots left the unit, and perhaps seeing a glimmer of promise in the skinny would-be recruit, he took a chance on the unlikely McDonough, and the chance paid off. Despite the crew's skepticism, and thanks in large part to Marsh's firm but loving encouragement, McDonough unlocked a latent drive and dedication, going on to successfully battle a number of blazes and eventually win the confidence of the men he came to call his brothers.
Then, on June 30, 2013, while McDonough--"Donut" as he'd been dubbed by his team--served as lookout, they confronted a freak, 3,000-degree inferno in nearby Yarnell, Arizona. The relentless firestorm ultimately trapped his hotshot brothers, tragically killing all 19 of them within minutes. Nationwide, it was the greatest loss of firefighter lives since the 9/11 attacks.
Granite Mountain is a gripping memoir that traces McDonough's story of finding his way out of the dead end of drugs, finding his purpose among the Granite Mountain Hotshots, and the minute-by-minute account of the fateful day he lost the very men who had saved him. A harrowing and redemptive tale of resilience in the face of tragedy, Granite Mountain is also a powerful reminder of the heroism of the people who put themselves in harm's way to protect us every day.
With candor, determination, and a need for redemption, McDonough chronicles his difficult journey to join an elite hotshot crew of wildfire firefighters, which transformed him from an aimless druggie to a responsible team member. With coauthor Talty, McDonough describes himself as "a typical blond, blue-eyed SoCal boy" with a restless free-spirited mother and an absent junkie father. He's rootless until he settles in Prescott, Ariz., where he enrolls in a program, Fire Explorer, that's designed for teens who want to be firefighters. A career as a firefighter appeals to McDonough for the sense of brotherhood and service; he enrolls in courses but flunks out, sliding back into drugs and jail. His luck changes when he's accepted into the Granite Mountain Hotshots, the most experienced wildfire fighting unit, and is given a second chance by its director and "his brothers" to become a capable member. The dangers of battling fires on the ground and air are many and McDonough thrillingly explains the terror and panic of the fateful June 30, 2013 tragedy at Yarnell Hill, where all 19 of his crew members perished, leaving him with painful survivor's guilt. But strong support propelled him into a new life of grace and renewal.
Customer ReviewsSee All
I’m a (young) career structural firefighter/paramedic of 9 years and have just started to get into the wildland firefighting scene. I remember hearing about Yarnell when it happened but didn’t know too much about it. I’m not a macho guy, by any means; I’m also not a wussy. But this book......this book jerked tears right out of me several times. I love how candidly this book is written and how there was nothing held back. You already know how it ends but it doesn’t matter. Great book.
I couldn’t put it down. Really helped me appreciate the sacrifices that are being made out unseen in the wilderness.