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July 29, 2014

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Texted photo shows Hotshot crew before they died

Image

AP Photo / Courtesy of Juliann Ashcraft

In this photo shot by firefighter Andrew Ashcraft, members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots watch a growing wildfire that later swept over and killed the crew of 19 firefighters near Yarnell, Ariz., Sunday, June 30, 2013. Ashcraft texted the photo to his wife, Juliann, but died later that day battling the out-of-control blaze.

Updated Tuesday, July 2, 2013 | 6 p.m.

YARNELL, Ariz. — It may be the last image of members of an Arizona fire crew before they died, overcome by flames.

The photo shows smoke billowing in the distance and firefighters covered in soot as they took a break and watched their target on the horizon.

At the time, its significance was small, part of a text exchange between a man and his wife.

"This is my lunch spot ... too bad lunch was an MRE," read the text message from Andrew Ashcraft to his wife, Juliann. It was a "meal ready to eat," carried along on trips by Hotshot crews.

Later that day, the 19 firefighters deployed their emergency shelters, a last-ditch effort to save their lives. It wasn't enough. All of them died in the raging wildfire.

The Hotshot crews are the best of the best, filled with adventure-seekers whose hard training prepares them for the worst.

Ashcraft was honored to be a member of the Hotshot crew, friends said, but he lived for his four kids and his wife.

He'd bring them to the gym where many of the crew worked out, said Janine Pereira, a trainer at Captain Crossfit.

"He'd carry her around sometimes and give her a kiss in front of all his guys," she said.

Now a plaque bears his name — and 18 others who left behind wives, children, friends — outside the crew's fire station.

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