The Hall of Flame Museum of Firefighting in Phoenix Honors the Granite Mountain Hotshots of Prescott

  • story by David M. Brown
  • photos by Mason Pacheco
  • posted on 06/2022
  • posted in: Great Garages

‘Hands of Mercy, Hearts of Courage, You have saved us from the flames’
–– ‘Blazing Honor,’ a song by Denise Whitley (Roggio)

The Hall of Flame Museum of Firefighting celebrates its 60th birthday this year. Nine years ago, June 30, 2013, 19 young men died fighting the Yarnell Hill Fire, as 8,000-plus acres burned until the flames were extinguished July 10. On its diamond anniversary, the world’s largest museum of firefighting history honors the hotshots’ courage and sacrifice.

That Granite Mountain Hotshot Crew from Prescott, Arizona, Station #7: Andrew Ashcraft, 29; Robert Caldwell, 23; Travis Carter, 31; Dustin Deford, 24; Christopher MacKenzie, 30; Eric Marsh, 43, the superintendent of the group; Grant McKee, 21 (Caldwell’s cousin); Sean Misner, 26; Scott Norris, 28; Wade Parker, 22; John Percin Jr., 24; Anthony Rose, 23; Jesse Steed, 36; Joe Thurston, 33; Travis Turbyfill, 27; William Warneke, 26; Clayton Whitted, 28; Kevin Woyjeck, 21; Garret Zuppiger, 27.


Brendan McDonough, 21, survived; his memoir, Granite Mountain, with Stephan Talty, became the film, Only the Brave. Recovering from a snake bike, the youngest of the crew was on weather-watch duty a short distance away and was saved by a UTV driver who stopped to warn him that the monsoon-driven air had intensified the heat, incinerating the manzanita brush, and changed direction, ensuring death for the 19 hotshots. “All of the boxes were checked for tragedy,” says Chuck Montgomery, the museum’s executive director.

Rigorously trained in wildland firefighting, the Prescott men were sent to battle the Yarnell Hill Fire. None were members of the Yarnell Fire Department, and none lived in town.

Two local sites area honor their great efforts. The Granite Mountain Hotshots Memorial State Park is off State Route 89, four miles south of Yarnell; it opened with a dedication ceremony on November 30, 2016. And, the Yarnell Hill Fire Memorial Park downtown was developed through the local Yarnell Hill Resource Group, which oversaw the recovery efforts after the 2013 fire, including disbursing $2-plus million in donated funds.


“Losing 19 members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots on their ‘Last Call’ was and remains the most horrific event of my life,” says Amanda Marsh, wife of Eric and a former board member for the state park. “The loss resides always for me; it will never go away. The loss is the lens I see the world through, and that is a gift because from sheer pain comes the ability to see the world in its starkest beauty. Without massive hardship, one cannot attain true perspective.”

“He’s in our thoughts and in our hearts always, and we’re grateful we had 28 years with him,” says Karen Norris, Scott’s mother. She lives in Prescott with husband Jim and their daughter, Joanna, and her husband. Their grandson, Elijah (Eli), was born three weeks before Scott and his fellow firefighters died.

A Great Collection Begins in the ’50s


The Hall of Flame has been in Phoenix since 1974, 6101 East Van Buren Street, on the Tempe border along East Van Buren Street across from the Phoenix Zoo, the ASU baseball stadium (Phoenix Municipal) and the Salt River Project building.

“You could make the argument that the history of firefighting is the history of civilization,” says Mark Moorhead, education curator. “Fire is great, but it can also be very bad. It’s, as they say, a good servant but a bad master.”

Devoted to preserving the history and traditions of the fire service, the museum owns 120-plus large-wheeled pieces, many of them restored by the great Don Hale. About a third of the vehicles are in the storage building just south of the museum, explains Moorhead.


Thousands of smaller artifacts include buckets, the first but inefficient firefighting tool; nozzles; insurance fire marks, which were insurance company plates on property facades indicating coverage; tools and artwork and a 6,000-plus patch collection, by far the world’s largest, with at least one piece from each continent.

One item is a breathing apparatus invented in 1916 by Garrett Morgan, an African-American who had to hire a white man to impersonate him to market the product because of his race. Also credited with another life-saving device, the three-stage traffic light, Morgan developed the apparatus following the March 25, 1911, Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire in Greenwich Village, Manhattan, during which 146 immigrant workers died because of poor fire codes and execrable work conditions.

“Our video theater also features a gallery of helmets from around the world, dating from 1730 in England; a Hall of Heroes memorializing firefighters who died while on duty or been decorated for bravery; and a wildland gallery devoted to smokejumpers and hotshots,” Montgomery says.


“There’s plenty for kids to do, too, including a hands-on children’s activity area with fire and burn safety education in partnership with the Arizona Burn Foundation, and, in Gallery 2, possibly the museum’s most well-loved piece: a 1951 American La France from Miami, Arizona, that kids (and grown-ups) can climb aboard and play on,” Moorhead explains.

In one area, the museum recalls infamous wildfires such as the Mann Gulch in Montana 1949, which killed 14 men and the South Canyon, or Storm King Mountain, fire in which 16 died in 1994, including women firefighters. The museum also remembers the June 26, 1990, Dude Fire in Payson. Burning 24,000-plus acres and numerous buildings, including the original Zane Grey cabin, the fire killed six inmates from the Perryville State Prison. “The Glendale Fire Department, for which I was working at the time, actually saved the life of another man, carrying him out from the fire,” Montgomery recalls.

Among other exhibits are an English hand pumper from 1725 — seven years before the birth of George Washington; an ornate double-decker hand pumper built in Philadelphia in 1844 for Pawtucket, Rhode Island; a parade carriage from 1870 with a Hermes figure atop representing the Hotchkiss Fire Department of Derby, Connecticut, “though it looks like the carriage that Cinderella rode to the ball,” Moorhead notes; and a 1860s fire wagon that responded to the October 1871 Great Chicago Fire from nearby Centerville Township, Wisconsin.


“One of the many interesting facts about the Chicago Fire is that it certainly saved more lives than it took because after it most of the cities that experienced fires, such as the Great Seattle Fire in 1889 and the San Francisco Earthquake in 1906, rebuilt their fire ordinances on the Chicago model, mandating a certain percentage of brick and stone in the structures, wider alleys for fire equipment and better roadways,” Montgomery explains.

Motorized fire trucks include a 1919 Mack “Bulldog” army truck converted into a ladder truck by the fire department of Baltimore, Maryland; a 1913 English engine that served Lima, Peru; an American LaFrance built with double sets of spaced tires to run on the railroad tracks; a Stutz (maker of the “Bearcat” cars) for Havre de Grace in Hartford County, Maryland, with its innovative U-shaped water tank surrounding the hose bin; and Arizona trucks including the 1951 American LaFrance that served Miami, Arizona, near Globe north of Phoenix.

The Hall of Flame also has FDNY’s Rescue 4, which responded to the World Trade Center attack in Manhattan on September 11, 2001; the crew of nine was lost, seven from Rescue 4 and one each from Rescue 5 and Ladder 136. The Hall of Flame underwrote a complete restoration of the vehicle, which carries tools and supplies for firefighting.


Another intensely emotional exhibit is one of the two transport buggies that carried the Granite Mountain Hotshots to the Yarnell Hill Fire. Making this even more resonant is that about three million acres of U.S. land has already burned this year.

The collection began as a Christmas gift in 1955 when the founder, George Getz, noticed a 1924 American LaFrance fire truck in front of a car dealership in Wilmette, Illinois; it had just been retired in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. A businessman involved in commercial real estate and other ventures, he suggested to his wife Olive that having an old fire truck would be fun. She sent her son Bert back to arrange the purchase.

Delighted, Getz used the firetruck to drive children around their neighborhood in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. But he also developed a passionate interest in firefighting and fire history, and by December of 1961 he had collected enough pieces to found a small museum in Kenosha, which he named the Hall of Flame. When the family relocated to the Phoenix area in the ‘60s, they brought the collection with them.


Trucks, Triumphs, Tragedies

Newsham Manual pumper –– Built in England in 1725, this is the oldest large piece in the collection. The concept was invented in Holland in the mid-1600s; Newsham picked it up and gave six to the royal family while marketing on his regal beneficence.

1844 Bates/Jeffers “Philadelphia-style” double-decker hand pumper –– It belonged to the Pawtucket, Rhode Island, Fire Department and is painted with murals.


1897 Water Tower –– The oldest motorized vehicle in the museum was built to be pulled by four horses but was converted to a motorized tractor in 1909.

•1913 Merryweather –– The oldest actual fire truck in the museum, it was built in England for the city of Lima, Peru, and served the Internacional Fire Department there. It’s hand cranked and chain driven.

Two Macks –– The 1919 Mack “Bulldog” ladder truck began as an Army truck but was adapted into a fire truck using formerly horse-drawn ladder wagons by the city of Baltimore, Maryland; it carries a “life net” and chemical tanks. The collection also has a 1948 Mack from Pierre, South Dakota, with its signature grill.


1921 Seagrave pumper –– This is only the fourth fire truck purchased by the city of Phoenix. The museum also has the call center from Phoenix Fire from the mid ’50s to the early ‘80s.

1930 Moreland wildland pumper –– This served the Topanga Canyon area for the Los Angeles County Forestry Department and was donated by cowboy star and MLB baseball team owner Gene Autry. “Autry was at spring training down the road at Phoenix Stadium with The California Angels and wandered on over to the museum,” Moorhead says. “He said he would have the truck, which was badly in disrepair, loaded onto a flat car and delivered to Phoenix for the museum. After it arrived, we took it to Don Hale, who did his magic.” When Autry saw the finished renovation, he “sort of” asked for the renovated truck back, Moorhead notes, but the museum responded, “Whoa.” Not even for a cowboy movie star.

1935 American LaFrance “400 Series” pumper –– from Norfolk, Nebraska, entertainer Johnny Carson’s home town, this is painted white and has a V-12 engine as well as a pump that can deliver 1,200-plus gallons of water per minute. “It is certainly one of our most beautiful trucks, and many consider this very capable machine one of the greatest trucks ever,” Moorhead says. He notes that it cost $13,000 during the Great Depression, so only 200 were sold, with most becoming scrap for World War II metal.


2006 Ford Transport Buggy –– The youngest vehicle in the collection (the only vehicle on display from the 21st century), this was the final ride for the Granite Mountain Hotshots. The other buggy is in Los Angeles. “It’s one of my many favorites in the collection,” Montgomery notes. “Anyone who visits the Hall of Flame will see that the history of firefighting is a history of courage and self-sacrifice. The Granite Mountain Hotshots are a heartbreaking but also inspiring example of this dedication.”

Honoring the Hotshots

In addition to memorializing the Hotshots, the town park represents a significant recovery by a small ranching, mining and retirement mountain community, population 667.


“Our beautiful little park, designed and built with thousands of volunteer hours and donations, is convenient, offers a much- needed public restroom, educates visitors about the impact of the fire on our area, and we hope, makes the experience more vivid,” says Frances Lechner, president of the Yarnell Area Resource Group, the dba of the Yarnell Hill Recovery Group. She also helped found the Memorial committee.

She moved to town in 2007 with her husband, Emad Mohit. “We were fortunate enough to not lose our home in the fire,” she says.

The YHRG has helped fund the park through concerts, the sale of tee-shirts, hoodies and patches. “The park has been a labor of love,” she says. “It is a way to further honor the sacrifice of the Hotshots by making Yarnell a more vibrant, sustainable community.”


The town holds the annual Yarnell Memorial Event on June 30 to honor the “poignant bravery to protect our town,” says Denise Whitley (formerly Roggio), grants specialist for the Yarnell Fire District who has participated in fundraising and other volunteer efforts to honor the men. “In just minutes, we lost 110 structures and 19 lives were taken –– all because the wind changed direction.”

She wrote the song “Blazing Honor” dedicated to the 20 hotshots. Sometimes she sings it solo, and some years others have performed it at the event.

Whitley is also the onsite coordinator for the Yarnell Memorial Run, hosted by the Yarnell Fire Auxiliary and managed by Startline Racing, which is scheduled every year on the first Saturday in June.


Attracting 500 people statewide, the fundraiser supports the fire department and the Eric Marsh Foundation for Wildland Firefighters in Prescott.

The tragedy continued after the fire: “We went through an unparalleled emotional and financial depression in 2013 and 2014,” she recalls. “But we prefer not to dwell on the immense sadness and grief that transpired in those first several months. As a community, we choose to focus on the many things in Yarnell that turned to positive outcomes. The fire strengthened community bonds within Yarnell and with outside communities; it sparked creativity in music, art and fundraising.”

The parks have attracted thousands each year, strengthening the tourist economy, and have brought an awareness of the risks of wildfire and how to be prepared for its possible path.


In addition, the Yarnell Fire District formed the Coalition for Wildfire Adapted Communities in 2017, bringing together local rural fire departments that include those from Peeples Valley, Southern Yavapai, Congress and Yarnell. This group was funded by a grant from the FEMA Fire Prevention and Safety Program; it exists for outreach, education, smoke detector drives, awareness campaigns and school presentations to promote wildfire and evacuation preparedness.

When they were together, Karen Norris and her family were outdoors: hiking the Grand Canyon, camping, exploring and fishing in the mountains. “We skied/snowboarded in Colorado together, laughed together,” she recalls. “Scott had a great sense of humor, inherited from his dad, and he often entertained us.”

On June 30 every year at 9 a.m., local firefighters host a memorial ceremony for families and close friends of the 19 at the Pioneers’ Cemetery in Prescott. Afterward, they gather with family and friends. All 19 have bronze markers but not all are buried there; some are interred near their family homes such as in California and Montana.


Yarnell’s ceremony begins later that day at 4 p.m., Norris says: “It closes at 4:42 p.m., the time of their deaths, with the ringing of a bell each time the name of one of the 19 is read.”

On June 30, at 10 a.m., a memorial program for the Hotshots was held at the museum. The Hall of Flame Museum is open Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Please allow at least two hours for your visit. Beginning July 1, admission is $17 for adults; $15 for seniors (62+) and for children 10–17; $10 for children 3–9; and free for those younger than 3. Please see for more information. Extraordinary drone videos by Tyler Healy are on YouTube at (Rescue 4, September 11) and (museum tour). Also see, AZ Wildland Tribute.

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