'A Fire Department Remembers'
The photographs succinctly tell the story - of the close proximity the Granite Mountain Hotshots frequently had to the fires they were fighting, and of their strong bond while working in harm's way.
Thirty large photos are central to the "A Fire Department Remembers" exhibit that has been open at the Hotel St. Michael since this past Sunday.
Several of the scenes feature the Hotshots, working in full wildland gear, with the flames and smoke just over their shoulders. Others show the Hotshot buggies driving straight toward the billowing smoke of another fire.
Dennis Bueschel, a volunteer with the Prescott Fire Department and a docent at the exhibit, said the people who have already stopped by at the exhibit have appreciated its theme.
"We have gotten tremendous feedback," he said. "Everybody really likes it, and the meaning we intended does seem to be coming out - what (the Hotshots) stood for, how they were committed."
Bueschel estimated that 1,000 people came through the display on Monday, and hundreds more have visited throughout the week.
The display uses chain link fence as a backdrop, replicating the Tribute Fence that grew at the Sixth Street site of Station 7, the onetime home of the Granite Mountain Hotshots.
Each of the 19 fallen Hotshots is featured on one side of the triangular kiosks spread throughout the ballroom of the Hotel St. Michael.
Organizers decided to leave plenty of space on the fence sections to allow people to place new items there, Bueschel said, and a number of new T-shirts, caps, and photos have appeared.
Along with the photos, the display also includes stories about the Hotshots, along with quotes from friends and coworkers. It also features an explanation of the Yarnell Hill wildfire's behavior on June 30, 2013, the day the Hotshots died.
It was that feature that caught the attention of Prescott resident Sharmane Calvin and her young stepson Wyatt Smith this week. Pointing at the exhibit, Calvin explained to Smith how the fire had grown throughout the day. Ultimately, the fire took a personal toll on the family, destroying two homes owned by Calvin's grandparents.
Bueschel, a retired fire service captain from Southern California, said he had volunteered with the Prescott Fire Department through the years. "As soon as (the Yarnell Hill tragedy) happened, I knew I was going to be involved," he said.
In the weeks after the fire, he said he did what he could to take the load off the local firefighters.
Later, as talk turned toward how to honor the Hotshots on the one-year anniversary, Bueschel joined forces with Katie Cornelius, volunteer curator for the fire department, to help put together the Tribute Fence exhibit.
"Being part of the fire family, we just stand up and help one another," Bueschel said.
The exhibit is open daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., through Sunday, July 6. The Hotel St. Michael is located at 205 W. Gurley St.
Follow Cindy Barks on Twitter @Cindy_Barks.
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