Juliann Ashcraft had just put her kids down for a nap when her cellphone buzzed. It was a text from her husband, Andrew, one of the 19 members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots.
That morning, Ashcraft and the other Hotshots had been deployed to Yarnell, Ariz., to fight yet another fire. Using chain saws and axes, they worked to build a line between the blaze and town. It was like any other day on the job, until the winds shifted and tragedy struck.
At 4:47 p.m., a call came over the radio. The group had deployed their emergency fire shelters — lightweight cocoons made of reflective material intended as a firefighter's last resort. A Prescott fire chief heard a garbled transmission. Then his phone rang, and he began praying.
Allen G. Breed is a national writer, based in Raleigh, N.C. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/#!/AllenGBreed