Where the desert breeze meets the mountain air…This is what Yarnell, AZ, looked like last summer.
Elevation 4,850 feet, population around 600, about 80 miles northwest of Phoenix, at the top of a beautiful winding highway (SR 89). No one really knows what it looks like right now since it’s consumed by fire with 8,400 acres burned and 8% containment. Aerial views are showing 129 of the town’s 500 structures destroyed. There are currently 600 firefighters on Yarnell Hill.
But, of course, the most tragic part of this fire is the loss of 19 firefighters (the Granite Mountain Hotshots) that were based in the nearby town of Prescott. So regardless of how many of the 500 structures in Yarnell have been destroyed and how many lives there will be adversely affected for a long time, it will always be overshadowed by those horrible deaths…the deadliest incident for firefighters since 9/11 and the third highest firefighter death toll on record for wildfires.
This is the Shrine of St. Joseph of the Mountains in Yarnell, the one tourist attraction there. The larger than life-sized sculptures are reinforced concrete, built in 1939 by Felix Lucero, portraying the life of Christ. Apparently the group that commissioned it was called the Catholic Action League of Arizona but it is now a non-denominational Christian retreat center supported by donations. I haven’t heard any reports of how the Shrine might have fared but I think it’s in the part of town that has the most damage.
*Update: “The Shrine of St. Joseph, a popular attraction in Yarnell, was damaged partially. A chapel appeared to be intact, but buildings used as a retreat center were burned. Some of the shrine’s concrete statues were visible from overhead, but others were obscured by trees.” Source: AZ Central.
My past Yarnell posts here.
It doesn’t seem right to “celebrate” the 4th of July here in AZ this year (click on photo if it isn’t animated).
Have a safe 4th!
*Here is a link to some dramatic photos of the fire taken by Phoenix photographer Matt Oss as well as a link to a timelapse he did.