Memorial to fallen Hotshots ‘going well’ but project is complex
Original time estimate 'too optimistic, organizer admits
Two stone monoliths — carved from Rhode Island granite to match the Yavapai County Courthouse — have proven to be a complex element of the Granite Mountain Hotshot monument planned for the courthouse plaza.
A year ago, the Granite Mountain Hotshots Memorial Partnership announced its chosen design for a memorial that will honor the 19 young men who died fighting the Yarnell Hill Fire on June 30, 2013.
As a part of that announcement, the group was hopeful that the sculpture would be in place at the courthouse by this year, the six-year mark of the tragedy.
But Bruce Martinez, president of the partnership, said last week that the group soon realized, “That was way too optimistic.”
Work is still underway on the engineering for the sculpture, Martinez said.
“It’s going well. We’re still in the process of getting the engineering and plans,” he said. “We didn’t know how long that would take.”
Emphasizing the size of the sculpture’s granite slabs, Martinez said, “One of the biggest things is that it is safe.”
Arizona sculptor Deborah Fellows, who was chosen to create the memorial, said the large slabs that will make up the backdrop for the memorial require complex engineering.
“It’s not your typical memorial,” Fellows said last week. “It involves two monoliths of granite. One is 17 feet high, and other is 14 feet high.”
She added: “It’s slow, but it’s a big project. This project, it’s complex.”
‘OUTSIDE THE BOX’
Fellows, who has created many memorials over the years, said she was asked to “think outside the box” for the Granite Hotshot memorial.
The result: a lone Hotshot figure depicted in bronze, backed by two slabs of granite stylized as an image of Granite Mountain.
The piece will incorporate the three elements that local residents most wanted to see included: granite, alligator juniper and bronze.
Prominently carved into the back of the granite slabs will be an image of the Prescott National Forest alligator juniper tree that has come to symbolize the Hotshots. The champion tree was saved by the Hotshot crew during Prescott’s June 2013 Doce Fire – just days before the 19 died fighting the Yarnell Fire.
The two spires of granite that will make up the sculpture’s backdrop will serve as a canvas for an etched image of the tree.
In her artist statement, Fellows explained: “The entirety of the spires is covered with the tree to represent the enormity of the tree itself and the enormity of the loss of the Granite Mountain Hotshots.”
A few aspects will stand out on memorial.
Fellows said the names of the 19 fallen Hotshots will be prominently displayed on the granite backdrop.
Lighting will ensure that the names will be visible at all times, Fellow added.
“I wanted the names to be the center of the concept,” she said.
Also, the face on the bronze figure will be crafted to reflect the resolve and courage of the Hotshots.
“The look on the face is so significant,” Fellows said, describing the Hotshot’s expression as “a look of determination, as if the firefighter knew that something was impending, but he’s on it. It will be no fear, but a pensive look.”
Prescott City Councilwoman Alexa Scholl, who serves on the partnership board, said the group is well on its way to raising the needed $500,000 for the memorial.
“We’re over halfway there, and we’re comfortable with that,” Scholl said. “We have good momentum going.”
Over the past year, the fundraising effort has received contributions from the City of Prescott, the towns of Prescott Valley, Chino Valley, and Dewey-Humboldt, and the Yavapai-Prescott Tribe. In addition, Yavapai County contributed the courthouse plaza land for the memorial and pledged in-kind help with the engineering.
Along with those contributions, the partnership has been soliciting private contributions. Anyone who contributes more than $200 receives a limited edition Granite Mountain Hotshots Challenge Coin.
Donations can be made online on the partnership’s website at: https://www.gmhsmemorial.com/, or on the group’s Facebook page.
Those who would rather mail a contribution can send it to: Granite Mountain Hotshots Memorial Partnership, P.O. Box 4299, Prescott, AZ 86302.
NO FIRM DEADLINE
None of the people involved could estimate when the engineering work might be done.
“We don’t have a hard deadline,” Scholl said, noting that the partnership is focusing on ensuring that the project is done well and is a fitting memorial to the Hotshots.
“We want to make sure it’s done right,” she said.
Once the engineering is complete, Fellows said, creating the memorial would take her about nine months to complete.
She already has created the miniature “maquette” of the sculpture, and said the coming work will involve enlarging that image for the memorial.
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