Meet the Sole Surviving Arizona Firefighter

He is 21-year-old Brendan McDonough. Now leave him alone

By Ruth Brown,  Newser Staff

Posted Jul 3, 2013 6:24 AM CDT

(Newser) – Nineteen members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots firefighter crew perished in Arizona last week, but one lone member survived. After days of mounting media scrutiny, his identity has been revealed: He is 21-year-old Brendan McDonough, the Arizona Republic reports. But now that you know, says the Prescott Fire Department, please leave him alone. "He is very distraught, as you might think,” says department spokesman Wade Ward. "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."

McDonough survived because he was on a hill acting as a lookout while his crewmates battled the blaze down below. When he saw the fire changing direction, he radioed his crew that conditions were changing, told them he was fleeing, and left for a new location. Investigators will now examine whether the crew should have been pulled out earlier or if more precautions could have been taken, the AP reports. But local fire authorities say McDonough followed procedure and acted as his post required. "He did exactly what he was supposed to," says Ward. Meanwhile, one of the doomed firefighters sent his wife a final photo.

Surviving firefighter Brendan McDonough embraces a mourner near the end of a candlelight vigil in Prescott, Arizona.
Surviving firefighter Brendan McDonough embraces a mourner near the end of a candlelight vigil in Prescott, Arizona.   (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)
Hotshot firefighter Brendan McDonough, the sole survivor of the 20-man Granite Mountain Hotshot Crew.
Hotshot firefighter Brendan McDonough, the sole survivor of the 20-man Granite Mountain Hotshot Crew.   (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)
Brendan McDonough embraces a mourner at a candlelight vigil in Prescott, Ariz. on Tuesday, July 2, 2013. McDonough was the sole survivor of the 20-man Granite Mountain Hotshot Crew.
Brendan McDonough embraces a mourner at a candlelight vigil in Prescott, Ariz. on Tuesday, July 2, 2013. McDonough was the sole survivor of the 20-man Granite Mountain Hotshot Crew.   (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)
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