Photo by Les Stukenberg.
Originally Published: February 26, 2016 4:44 p.m.
PRESCOTT - The call has officially gone out: Members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots Memorial Partnership say now is the time for the public to offer input on a courthouse plaza memorial for the 19 Hotshots lost fighting a June 2013 wildfire.
Preliminary discussions have been under way over much of the past two and a half years on how best to memorialize the young men who died fighting the Yarnell Hill wildfire.
In the grief-stricken months after the tragedy, retired Prescott Fire Chief Bruce Martinez was asked by the Prescott Fire Department to help field the calls that were flooding in with memorial ideas.
At that point, Martinez said, "It was too soon" to make decisions about the memorial. And in his discussions with organizers of memorials in other communities, such as the 9-11 memorial in New York City, he was told, "Take your time."
The Memorial Partnership took that advice, said Martinez, who serves as president of the organization. Now, going on three years since the Hotshot tragedy, the partnership has the framework in place to go to the public and seek ideas and feedback, as well as its non-profit status for fundraising.
Currently, Martinez said all that is definitely known about the memorial is that it will be located on 400 square feet of space on the courthouse plaza.
The Yavapai County Board of Supervisors earlier granted the space, located near the intersection of Goodwin and Cortez streets - just north of the historic well site along Cortez Street.
"This is the launch of getting public input," Martinez said, adding that the comment period would last for 120 days.
While the website is set up to accept donations, Martinez said the partnership intends for the design to be the main focus at the outset; fundraising will ramp up after a design has been chosen, and the cost of the memorial is known.
A news release from the partnership asks the public to visit the organization's website at www.gmhsmemorial.com, and provide thoughts and ideas for the composition of the memorial. Once there, online submissions can be made by clicking the "memorial" tab.
Community members also may send a request for a submission packet to: Memorial Partnership, P.O. Box 4299, Prescott, Arizona, 86302.
After 120 days, the partnership will review all submissions and determine the criteria for inviting qualified artists to submit proposals for the memorial.
"Thoughts and ideas submitted to the Memorial Partnership during this public input period will become the proprietary property of the Memorial Partnership or its licensors, and are protected by United States and international copyright laws," the release states.
Martinez, who retired as fire chief in 2012 and was involved in the hiring of at least eight of the fallen 19, maintains that a downtown memorial is important for Prescott.
"These were 19 city employees that worked for our fire department," he said. "Because of the central location of the courthouse square - the place where everybody gathers - we thought there was no better place."
Yavapai County Supervisor Rowle Simmons, whose district includes both the Yarnell fire site and the courthouse plaza, agrees. "It is very appropriate that it be there," Simmons said of the plaza. "We really do need a memorial here in Prescott."
Although the Arizona State Parks Department is working on another memorial at the Yarnell fire site, Martinez said he sees that "more as a sacred spot, for the families," while the courthouse memorial would help the community remember the sacrifice of the fallen 19.
"I don't want people to forget," Martinez said. "These were 19 of the best firefighters imaginable."
In a March 2015 resolution, the Prescott City Council also endorsed the memorial, and pledged city assistance.
Martinez said the Memorial Partnership has not yet estimated the cost of the memorial, or the timeframe. "Depending on what is chosen, it could take a couple years," he said.
Along with Martinez, members of the partnership include: Bill Fain of Fain Signature Group; Gayle Mabery, Clarkdale Town Manager; Danny Parker, father of fallen Hotshot Wade Parker, and a retired Chino Valley Fire District Captain; Alexa Scholl, Prescott High School senior; Paul Roberts of Roberts and Carver PLLC; John Coleman, renowned artist; Celeste Gordon, U.S. Forest Service; Jim Holst, retired Yavapai County Administrator; Ernie Jones, Yavapai-Prescott Indian Tribe President; and Pat McCarty, Prescott Fire District Engineer, and former Hotshot.
More information is available on the partnership's website at: www.gmhsmemorial.com.
In addition, the organization's Facebook page can be found at: https://www.facebook.com/Granite-Mountain-Hotshots-Memorial-Partnership-497919723723403/?fref=ts.
The organization also is on Twitter, at https://twitter.com/GMHotshotsMem, under GraniteMountain19.