USA — The Yavapai County Board of Supervisors has created a wildland firefighter scholarship program to honor the 19 fallen Granite Mountain Hotshots from Prescott.
The board plans to donate $19,000 annually for Arizona Wildfire and Incident Management Academy scholarships, and handed the first check to Academy Assistant Coordinator Libby Reiman on Monday.
All of the county’s 25 fire departments and districts will get a portion of the money to help send their firefighters to the academy for training.
The annual academy takes place March 8-14 at the Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott during spring break. Registration continues through March 1, Reiman said.
Supervisor Craig Brown said he thought of the scholarship idea when he heard that some local firefighters couldn’t afford to attend the academy, especially the volunteers.
“We wanted to make sure everybody had the opportunity to attend the Arizona Wildfire Academy,” Brown said.
The scholarship also is a way to honor the memory of the hotshots, many of whom volunteered their time at the academy and taught classes. Granite Mountain Hotshots Superintendent Eric Marsh was there from day one.
“It keeps their memory alive and gives new firefighters the ability to get new knowledge… and hopefully another tragedy won’t occur,” Brown said.
The 19 hotshots died June 30 when the Yarnell Hill wildfire exploded into a firestorm about 30 miles south of Prescott. It also destroyed an estimated 122 homes.
“It was a personal tragedy for everyone,” Brown said. “The Board of Supervisors, all five of us, were out there on the day of the recovery of the bodies to make sure everything was handled appropriately,” alongside U.S. representatives Paul Gosar and Ann Kirkpatrick.
“It was pretty traumatic,” Brown said. “It reminded me of my days in Vietnam.”