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Firefighter's widow reflects on impact of IAFF Fallen Fire Fighter Memorial

Posted: 10:23 PM, Sep 20, 2019
Updated: 2019-09-21 00:23:06-04
ERIC MARSH IAFF WALL.jpg

COLORADO SPRINGS — Amanda Marsh will always remember that fateful day.

"I got a panicked phone call from one of our friends who used to work for Prescott Dispatch, and she was very breathless on the call," Marsh said.

The day was June 30, 2013.

She had heard of trouble at the Yarnell Hill Fire, burning near Yarnell, Ariz., where her husband Eric was at work.

"'Have you heard from him? Have you heard from him?' And I hadn't heard from him," Marsh said, recalling the phone call.

Amanda wouldn't hear from Eric, superintendent of the Granite Mountain Hotshots, again. His final radio transmission was recorded on another firefighter's helmet camera just moments before the hotshots were burnt over.

"Yeah, I'm here with Granite Mountain Hotshots. Our escape route has been cut off," he said. "We are preparing a deployment site. We are burning out around ourselves in the brush, and I'll give you a call when we are under the shelters."

Though they deployed their fire shelters, all 19 of the hotshots died, except for one serving as a lookout. It's the single largest loss of firefighters since 9/11.

Today, their legacy lives on at the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) Fallen Fire Fighters Memorial in Colorado Springs.

Their names are all etched together on the wall — a sight Amanda said emphasizes the family feeling in the fire service.

She said it doesn't stop when a firefighter dies in the line of duty.

"There's a feeling of permanence about the loss when you see that, but it's also a feeling of great honor and dedication. And that's what the fire service really is all about," Marsh said.

The memorial is really a mission supported by firefighters across the U.S. and Canada to preserve the legacy of their fallen brothers and sisters.

They honor every life given to service, but gone too soon, according to Milwaukee Fire Lt. Blake Vinson.

"The fallen cannot see this, but the family can, and we're leaving a last impression on a family member," Vinson said.

Saturday's memorial will add 250 names to the memorial. The annual event begins with a procession at 9:30 a.m., while the service starts at 11 a.m.