WEST JEFFERSON-“All men are created equal…then, a few become firefighters.”
That’s the tag line from Sony Pictures upcoming release Only the Brave, a movie featuring the story of 19 men, including Ashe County native Eric Marsh, who died battling Arizona’s Yarnell Hill Fire in 2013.
It hits theaters nationwide Oct. 20.
Marsh, 43, was a 1987 graduate of Ashe Central High School. He served as superintendent of the Prescott, AZ-based Granite Mountain Hotshots, an elite group of wildland firefighters.
“Only the Brave, based on the true story of the Granite Mountain Hotshots, is the heroic story of one unit of local firefighters that through hope, determination, sacrifice, and the drive to protect families, communities, and our country become one of the most elite firefighting teams in the country,” according to information released by Sony Pictures. “As most of us run from danger, they run toward it—they watch over our lives, our homes, everything we hold dear, as they forge a unique brotherhood that comes into focus with one fateful fire.”
Rated PG-13, the flick is getting solid reviews from film critics, according to Rottentomatoes.com.
The Arizona Republic’s Bill Goodykoontz calls it a “full portrait of sometimes-flawed men doing extraordinary things – an approach that makes the film so moving, its effect so shattering.”
The deadly Yarnell Hill blaze was ignited in the hills and desert scrub just southwest of Prescott by a lightning storm, and was fanned by erratic winds.
The Granite Mountain Hotshots were in “direct attack” mode meaning they had “one foot in the fire,” attempting to keep the blaze from taking the town.
At some point the fast moving blaze overtook the crew, however, forcing all 19 to deploy their flame and heat resistant emergency shelters. None survived the incident.
Three months after the disaster, the deadliest wildfire since 1933, the Arizona State Forestry Division released a report which found no evidence of negligence or recklessness in the deaths of the 19 firefighters, though it found problems with communications.
In December 2013, however, the Industrial Commission of Arizona levied a $559,000 fine against the state’s forestry division following an investigation by Arizona’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health.
For Marsh, firefighting was his life, his passion. He’d moved to Arizona some eight years before his death to organize Granite Mountain.
Marsh had been involved in firefighting since right after high school. He graduated from Appalachian State University, a student of biology and a naturalist.
He’d joined the Prescott’s city fire department in 2003 as a member of the fuel management team but also set his sights on forging a city-sponsored wildland firefighting team, a rarity in a world where the vast majority of hotshot crews are helmed by federal agencies like the Forest Service, National Parks Service or Bureau of Indian Affairs.
Nearby Granite Mountain, with its rough chaparral covered slopes, served as a proving ground for Marsh’s tight-knit crew. It ultimately became the team’s namesake.
Reach Adam Orr at 336-489-3058.