By The Associated Press, Associated Press
PRESCOTT, Ariz. (AP) — Nineteen members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots, based in Prescott, Ariz., were killed Sunday when a windblown wildfire overcame them north of Phoenix. It was the deadliest single day for U.S. firefighters since Sept. 11. Fourteen of the victims were in their 20s. Here are the stories of some of those who died:
ANDREW ASHCRAFT: AN ATHLETIC, GO-GETTER
Prescott High School physical education teacher and coach Lou Beneitone taught many of the Hotshots, and remembered 29-year-old Andrew Ashcraft as a fitness-oriented student.
"He had some athletic ability in him and he was a go-getter, too. You could pretty much see, from young freshman all the way, he was going to be physically active."
Beneitone said athletic prowess was a must for the Hotshots. "That's what it takes. You gotta be very physically fit, and you gotta like it, gotta like the hard work."
Ashcraft, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, was honored to be a member of the Hotshot crew, and "he just had a really sweet spirit about him," Elise Smith, a Prescott, Ariz., resident, told The Deseret News of Salt Lake City.
Ashcraft left behind a wife, Juliann, and four children, the newspaper reported.
ROBERT CALDWELL: THE SMART ONE
Friends characterized Robert Caldwell, 23, as the smart man in the bunch.
"He was really smart, he had a good sense of humor," said Chase Madrid, worked as a Hotshot for two years, but sat this year out.
"He was one of the smart guys in the crew who could get the weather, figure out the mathematics. It was just natural for him," Madrid said.
It was Caldwell's intelligence and know-how that got him appointed as a squad boss.
His cousin, Grant McKee, was also a Hotshots member and also was killed on Sunday.
"Robert was a gentle giant — he was man of few words," said his aunt, Laurie McKee.
He had just gotten married in November, and had a five year old step-son.
"Both of these boys were only interested in having a family life. Robert was newly married, and Grant was engaged. They just wanted the house and the dog," she said.
Mary Hoffmann was grandmother to both boys.
"To have two grandson's gone, it's devastation," she said.
TRAVIS CARTER: STRONG AND HUMBLE
At Captain Crossfit, a gym near the firehouse where the Hotshots were stationed, Travis Carter was known as the strongest one out of the crew — but also the most humble.
"No one could beat him," trainer Janine Pereira said. "But the thing about him, was he would never brag about it. He would just kill everyone and then go and start helping someone else finish."
Carter, 31, was famous for once holding a plank for 45 minutes, and he was notorious for making up brutal workouts.
The crew recently did a five mile run during wilderness training, then he made them go to Captain Crossfit in the afternoon for another really hard workout.
"The other guys who came in here always said that even though he was in charge, he was always the first one at the fire, the first one in action," Pereira said.
DUSTIN DEFORD: DRY SENSE OF HUMOR
Dustin DeFord, 24, tried out for the Hotshot crew in January 2012, telling friends on Twitter that he had passed the physical fitness test and asking for prayers as he moved on to the interview stage of the process.
He moved to Arizona from Montana after he was hired, and he worked to improve his skills on the climbing wall at a gym near the firehouse.
"He listened very well. He was very respectful," said Tony Burris, a trainer at Captain Crossfit. "He kind of had a dry sense of humor."
Another trainer, Janine Pereira, echoed that sentiment.
"You would say something to him, and he would respond with a crack, which was funny because he was so shy," she said.
Soon after he interviewed for the Hotshots, DeFord signed up for the Spartan Race, a rugged, eight-mile challenge through the mud and around various obstacles in Chandler, a suburb of Phoenix.
"I am being amazing," he wrote on Twitter, in reference to the race.
Several months later, in June 2012, he tweeted: "First Fire of the season."