As the 19 firefighters killed in a wildfire last week in Arizona returned home Sunday, the lone survivor and twentieth member of the Granite Mountain hotshot crew is looking for privacy to deal with the tragedy.
"He is very distraught, as you might think," fire department spokesman Wade Ward told azcentral.com. "He is very emotional. He's got all the questions, the why and the why not. He's concerned for the families mostly. I can tell you Brendan has no desire to speak to anybody at this point."
The identity of 21-year-old Brendan James McDonough was confirmed on July 2, two days after 19 firefighters were killed while battling a lightning-sparked fire near the town of Yarnell.
McDonough had been assigned the role of lookout, and was tasked with radioing changes in conditions to the crew. When the fire reached a "trigger point" near him, he would move to a new location.
According to azcentral.com, on that Sunday, the fire reached that trigger point and McDonough determined he needed to move from his location. He radioed the supervisor of the crew to let him know he was moving and asked if the team needed anything. Shortly after he left his location, the article said, the fire engulfed his lookout point, and he never heard back from his crewmates.
"He left his post based on the protocol. He was doing his job," Ward told the Los Angeles Times. He later added, "the wind we had shifted; there was nothing more to it. It was an accident."
According to The Associated Press, erratic winds unexpectedly shifted the fire's direction, causing it to hook around the firefighters and cut off their access to their safety zone.Comment on this story
Since the fire, McDonough has remained largely out of site, emerging briefly Tuesday at a vigil in Prescott. On his Facebook page, he wrote two simple messages. The first read, "Thank you all for the love and support." The second asked friends and family to say nothing about him if contacted by the media.
"I hope that he knows we love him," she said.