It's a reunion among women joined by unthinkable tragedy. Meet eight of the widows of Arizona’s Hotshots.
They clutch photos of the men they lost when a deadly wall of 70 foot high flames trapped the elite firefighters. Now, they gather for a visit and to console one another through a nightmare only they understand.
Juliann Ashcroft’s husband, Andrew, was among the 19 who perished. She told INSIDE EDITION’s Jim Moret, “I wish for the world to know that they lost this army of honorable men.”
Earlier that day, Andrew, a father of four texted how much he loved his family and shared a photo of the wildfire as the hotshots moved into harms way.
Juliann said, “I looked at my four children and thought, ‘Oh man, I was able to grow up with a daddy and they won’t.’ My heart breaks for them everyday.”
Marsena Thurston had been with her husband Joe since their sophomore year in high school. He leaves behind two young sons. She said, “I just kept texting him saying 'You need to tell me. You need to tell me you are okay.' I couldn’t believe it. Cause I kept thinking you wouldn't leave me.”
Krista Carter's husband, Travis, was also a father of two. She said, “They were invincible. That is the way I saw each and every one of them.”
Emily Ashby lost her boyfriend Garret Zuppiger. She says like all Hotshots, Garret tried his best at everything. She said, “I love how he set the bar high.”
The hotshot firefighters were larger than life. It's what happened during the final moments of their lives that still haunts these women.
Claire and Robert Caldwell were newlyweds. She said, “As much as he loved his crew, I know in some way he must have thought, 'Oh my God I can't be leaving my family.'”
Alicia Owens was planning to marry her fiancé Wade Parker. She said, “Our wedding was October 19th of this year. Didn’t make it, but it is what happens. You got to keep going.”
Two of the women were actually pregnant when disaster struck. Firefighter Sean Misner never met his baby boy, Sean Jr., nor did firefighter Anthony Rose who leaves behind a daughter, Willow.
At times, the pain is overwhelming. But the women say an outpouring of support helps them cope with their grief.
Krista said, “I had people offering to water my plants watch my children, take my trash out. It's been absolutely amazing.”
Sharon Knutson Felix is with Arizona’s 100 Club, which provides emotional and financial support when tragedy strikes.
She said, “These girls will never get over it, but I know they will live through it.”
Now, these women want to carry on like their lost loved ones would have wanted.
An investigation found no wrongdoing in any of the firefighters deaths.
For more information on how to help the widows, please visit The United Phoenix Fire Fighters Association. Together with the Prescott Fire Fighters Charities, they have established a 501(c)3 relief fund at any Chase bank. Ask for the United Phoenix Fire Fighters Association Account that has been established to benefit families of firefighters killed in the Yarnell Fire.
To mail a donation, address it to:
61 E. Columbus
Phoenix AZ 85012.
Additionally, donations can be made through the 100 Club or the Wildland Firefighter Foundation.