Relatives of the Granite Mountain Hotshot firefighting team gathered at a trailhead for the somber ceremony dedicating the site as an
"May this always be a sacred place for this community and for this state to honor the lives of those who died protecting us," Ducey said. "And may it always serve as testament to the danger firefighters everywhere face every day. We will never forget."
Only one member of the team, a lookout, survived the
"Our hearts are grateful for everything that everybody's done for us and the fact that the state would put a state park here for a place for us to come and reflect and just come be with our son," said Parker, a retired firefighter. "Because this is where he spent his last day."
The park was dedicated after
The trail itself is lined with memorial plaques for each firefighter. It zig-zags from the highway up a steep slope to a ridgeline, then follows the ridgeline to a spot with a view into the canyon where the firefighters were killed.
The trail then descends into the canyon to a memorial site with 19 wire baskets filled with rocks marking the locations where flames overcame the crew. A flagpole is set in the center of a memorial site.
On the day they died, the firefighters were stationed in a relatively safe position on a ridge top.
But for unknown reasons and without notifying anyone, they moved down the mountainside through an unburned area where they were trapped by a wall of flames when winds shifted the fire toward them.
State workplace safety regulators blamed the firefighters' deaths on the Arizona Forestry Division, saying it put protection of property ahead of safety and should have pulled crews out earlier.
A state investigation found that fire officials lacked key personnel to battle the
The state paid a dozen families who sued over the deaths
The fire also burned 127 homes, and people who lost them have sued the state.
Ducey in an interview encouraged people to hike the trail, saying "it's strenuous and its long, but you'll really learn the stories of these young men."
When vegetation grows thick again in the area, "they going to wonder, 'My God, fire going through something like this is an absolutely devastating event."