The names of the 19 elite firefighters who died while trying to contain wildfires in Arizona Sunday have been released, while their grieving families begin to tell emotional stories about their lives and what they know if their last moments.
Juliann Ashcraft, the widow of 29-year-old Andrew Ashcraft and mother to their four children, appeared in an interview on the “Today” show, visibly holding back tears as she said “we’re doing the best we can just one day at a time.”
While her husband was out fighting the Yarnell fires Sunday morning, Ashcraft said they shared a series of text messages.
“He just let us know that he loved us, that he missed us already, which was a common thing for him to do when he would go on a fire. Because of the dangers of the job, he would just always tell us he loved us,” she recalled.
Ashcraft went on to explain that she proceeded to take her children to church that morning where their son gave a speech. She said her husband sent a message asking her to tell their son that he was proud of him.
“He said along those same lines that he was missing our family and for whatever reason this fire was wild,” Ashcraft said.
Ashcraft sent him some photos during the day of what their family was doing. Andrew Ashcraft in return sent her a photo of what the fire looked like from his perspective at the time.
Later during a thunderstorm, Ashcraft relayed a message to her husband that their daughter had said she wished her dad could have witnessed the storm as well.
“He said ‘I really wish I could see it, we could sure use some rain over here,’” Ashcraft said.
Ashcraft said she sent him a reply asking if he would be sleeping out in the field that night.
“And of course there was no reply, and they all laid out there that night,” Ashcraft said fighting tears.
Ashcraft emphasized that she and their community consider the members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots crew heroes.
“Not just him, all the 19 men that lost their lives and of course I’m partial and I love dearly and miss dearly my husband and the father of my children. He was the most amazing man, best person I know. A contagious smile, a heart of gold.”
“That’s why he chose to do what he did and work where he worked. It’s because he wanted to protect the community he lived in and that he loved,” Ashcraft said. “The 19 men, all of them, they really bonded together.”
“We want people to know that they are heroes,” she continued.
“These men loved what they did. These men worked together. They lived together. They fought fires together. And they died together, doing what they loved,” Ashcraft said later.
Watch the emotional interview: