May 06, 2016
He said that he'll be battling survivor's guilt for the rest of his life and continues to struggle with PTSD.
"The things that I saw and the things that I've been through have just been branded into my mind," McDonough said.
A photo from Brendan McDonough's book, "My Lost Brothers." MCCARTIN/DANIELS PROn June 30, 2013, the Granite Mountain Hotshots responded to a wildfire in Yarnell, Arizona. The specially-trained wildland firefighters were met by a 3,000-degree firestorm that eventually took the lives of 19 firefighters from Prescott, Arizona within minutes, leaving a sole survivor: Brendan McDonough.
Four of those firefighters had Southern California roots. McDonough reflects on his life and the fire which burned 8,000 acres in his new book, "My Lost Brothers: The Untold Story by the Yarnell Hill Fire's Lone Survivor," and he spoke with KPCC.
McDonough said that he wanted to be a firefighter since he was 13 or 14. He was advised to become a "hotshot" — the firefighters who are sent to fight wildfires in remote spots — because it meant the opportunity to travel and see the country.
McDonough said that he was going down a bad path and that joining the Granite Mountain Hotshots when he was 19 saved his life.
"The journey I was headed down before I got hired was not a good one. I was a drug addict. Six months before I got hired, I was just released out of jail," McDonough said. He'd been using heroin.
McDonough credits the Granite Mountain hotshots with turning him from who he was into who he is today.
"The guys that I worked with were just humble, caring, passionate, just amazing men that weren't only training me to be a firefighter, but to be a good dad," McDonough said. He has a young daughter.
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