The residents of Prescott, Ariz., will celebrate Independence Day today even as it mourns the deaths of 19 hometown firefighters. All but one of the 20-member Granite Mountain Hotshot crew died Sunday while battling a fire in nearby Yarnell.
Officials in Prescott, a hilltop community of 40,000, say they've retooled their annual Fourth of July celebration in the wake of the deaths.
Their goal is to mourn the firefighters without compromising holiday traditions. The mantra for days has been "Celebration, not grief."
How can you pray for the victims families? Kelly Burke, chaplain coordinator for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association's Rapid Response Team, explains how they are helping and what the needs are, on CBN News Channel, July 4.
To that end, Prescott will host at least 10 hours worth of festivities, including an all-day carnival, live music, a nighttime dance at the outdoor rodeo in town, and fireworks.
Although tinderbox conditions continue, fire officials say they can deploy the pyrotechnics safely and pour water on the detonation area if necessary.
On Sunday violent wind gusts quickly changed what had been a manageable lightning-strike forest fire, turning it into a death trap for the Hotshot crew.
The tragedy is now raising questions about whether the crew should have been pulled out earlier. Investigators plan to examine radio logs, the fire site, and weather reports at the time.
They'll also talk with the crew's sole survivor, 21-year-old Brendan McDonough.
As the crew's lookout, he warned his fellow firefighters that the wildfire was switching direction and heading straight for them.
The blaze is still only 45 percent contained and has burned about 13 square miles. Nearly 600 firefighters continue to battle it.
Hundreds of people have been evacuated and the fire has destroyed more than 120 homes.