7/4/2013 3:48:00 PM Amanda Marsh, wife of fallen Granite Mountain Hotshot crew superintendent, speaks about her husband 'He loved me more than I've ever been loved'
Heidi Dahms Foster/Review Amanda Marsh, wife of Granite Mountain Hotshots Superintendent Eric Marsh, speaks to the media Thursday afternoon as Prescott Fire Wildland Division Chief Darryl Willis, left, and retired Prescott Wildland Division Chief Duane Steinbrink look on. Steinbrink is holding one of Eric's wildland firefighting uniforms.
Hotshots worked years under Marsh to gain unique status
By JOANNA DODDER
Just last week while the Granite Mountain Hotshots were wrapping up their efforts against the Doce wildfire on Granite Mountain near Prescott, Granite Mountain Hotshots Superintendent Eric Marsh talked about tracing Granite Mountain's shadow on a piece of paper to create the hotshots' logo for their helmets.
"It's kind of bittersweet," Marsh said of the Doce wildfire, because the hotshots often hiked up their namesake mountain during workouts since it's so close to the city.
The team hiked up Granite Mountain during the Doce fire to save an ancient alligator juniper that is listed as the largest such species in the world alongside another Prescott National Forest alligator juniper.
Marsh, 43, died alongside 18 of his 19 crew members Sunday on the Yarnell Hill wildfire. He leaves his wife Jane. His parents John and Jane moved to Prescott about five years ago to be near their only child.
"He was a great son," John told The Jefferson Post newspaper in Ashe County, N.C., where Marsh grew up. "He was compassionate and caring about his crew."
Marsh led the Granite Mountain Hotshots to their hard-fought Type I national interagency hotshot crew status in 2008. The crew was the only one of the 110 hotshot teams in the country to be organized under a city fire department.
Prescott fire officials saw the need for a municipal hotshot crew because wildfire is the biggest threat to Prescott.
The crew began as a brush management crew in 2001, and by 2002 it had become a regional firefighting crew during the wildfire season. Thousands of hours of training followed before the crew gained its hotshot status.
Marsh joined the crew in 2004. For a Daily Courier news story in 2008, Marsh recalled the first day of training the crew to dig a fire line in 2004.
"At the end of the first day it was like, 'How is this going to happen?' But they worked their butts off and they were eager to learn," Marsh related.
Just about a month later, they worked their first major wildfire outside of the Prescott Basin, and Marsh was so proud of them.
The crew put out the Rock Fire on rugged Bill Williams Mountain all by itself, recalled Duane Steinbrink, the now-retired wildland division chief on the department.
"We hiked in and just took care of it," Marsh said. "I think it was the first time we knew it would be OK, no matter what."
Heidi Dahms-Foster Former Editorial Manager
Amanda Marsh, wife of Eric Marsh, one of the 19 Granite Mountain Hotshots who lost his life in the Yarnell Hill Fire Sunday, said the founder and superintendent of the crew was "90 percent hotshot, and the 10 percent was left for us." In the same statement, however, she said, "he loved me more than I've ever been loved in my life."
Marsh spoke to the media Thursday at Prescott High School, surrounded by Prescott Fire Wildland Division Chief Darrell Willis, her parents, and a large group of young men she said had been part of the crew at one time or another.
The couple met at Denny's in Prescott Valley, and were together for six years, married for three. Marsh described her husband as a man who was strong but had great compassion for animals. She is a natural horse hoof trimmer and care specialist, and said in a previous interview that Eric encouraged her to pursue her passion. They shared their Chino Valley home with two beloved dogs and several horses. She said Eric had an immense heart and was incredibly funny.
"He loved so many people. We liked to watch Family Guy, and he used laugh at Brian, his favorite," she said.
They did not have children, but Marsh said Eric referred to the men on his crew as his "kids."
"He meant that very sincerely. He had a bond with his crew - it was beyond words to describe," she said.
Marsh said she didn't worry about her husband when he was fighting fires.
"I am a very strong person. I have a life and I chose to live it. He was very safe and I knew that," she said.
She added that she was fine with his dedication to the Granite Mountain Hotshots.
"I wanted my husband to do what he loved, and he gave me that same respect back. That's a marriage that works, and that's what we strove to do."
Willis said he lost 19 sons when the Hotshots died Sunday, and Eric Marsh, at 43, was the oldest one. He said he was grooming Marsh to take over his position in the near future.
"Our relationship went way beyond worker and and co-worker. It was friend," he said.
Willis described Marsh as a tough leader but a considerate, kind and loyal man, in whom he had every confidence as the hotshot superintendent.
"He was well trained, with 23 years of experience, and he had every class, beyond what was required, to lead this group of individuals. He never faltered. I have complete confidence that he knew exactly what was going on Sunday evening and the best course of action. That should never be questioned," Willis said. "He led (the crew) and they all agreed, the leadership there was unbelievable."
Willis added, "My hope is that Amanda and the family, and Eric's family, gets the peace that passes all understanding in this situation. I am so thankful for Eric."
Amanda, along with the rest of the wives and families of the fallen Granite Mountain hotshots, now are faced with moving on with their lives. But she's determined, and she has a world of support.
"I have a bright future ahead of me. I'm 38 years old and I'm a widow. However, I know that my life is going to go on. Right now I'm grieving, along with the rest of the world, and there are so many thoughts and prayers that are with me and everybody else who has suffered a tremendous loss."
She knows that all those who loved these 19 young men will have to dig deep.
"We're all Hotshot wives, sisters, brothers, mothers, fathers and friends. We all have a strength in us that maybe all of us don't even know yet."
Posted: Friday, July 5, 2013
Article comment by:
Amanda, I pray the Lord will comfort you during this difficult time and will give you His peace. We're so proud of Eric and the other 18 who gave their lives on Sunday. We are grateful to all who serve in this capacity. God Bless you.
Posted: Friday, July 5, 2013
Article comment by:
You are an amazing woman. I don't even know you, but when I see your picture and think of you- I know how incredible and strong you are. Thank you for the sacrifice you have made in your life as a firefighter's wife and, now, unfortunately the ultimate sacrifice. I can't even imagine the pain you move through right now, but please KNOW that you are loved and blessed throughout this community by people that you don't even know. We send you so much love to move through this pain....