BAKERSFIELD, CA - KGET is teaming up with the Kern County Fire Department Wednesday for a fundraiser to help families of the 19 fallen firefighters in Arizona.
Members of the Granite Mountain Hotshot Crew died eight days ago when they became trapped in a growing wildfire.
Kern County may be almost 500 miles from Yarnell, Arizona, but there is a special bond that makes firefighting a brotherhood. Firefighters say it's a bond that transcends city and state lines.
Hotshot crews put their lives on the line fighting the country's biggest wildfires. "These guys are out on the fire line, usually 14 days at a time," said Corey Wilford, Kern County Fire Department.
"You work 16-hour days. You spend the night on the ground and you carry your food and water with you," explained Engineer Matt Imbelloni, Kern County Fire Department.
The elite group of firefighters is deployed into the hottest and often most dangerous parts of fires, armed with little more than hand tools. "Pulling brush all day long," explained Wildford. "16 hours a day, physically just moving stuff."
Many of the men have families. The time away takes an emotional toll. "You spend weeks at a time away from your friends and family. You travel all over the country," noted Imbelloni.
Nineteen members of the Granite Mountain Hotshot Crew lost their lives when a wind-blown wildfire overcame them north of Phoenix.
Of the 19 men killed, 14 were in their 20s. Many left behind wives and young children. "There's ten wives left behind. There's eleven children," said Imbelloni.
Imbelloni is a former hotshot crew member himself. He felt compelled to help. "It actually really hit home. I have a wife and nine-month-old baby at home and it was very personal to me," he said.
Imbelloni wanted Kern County's help to raise money for the families. "They've lost somebody. They're going through a really tough time right now and they don't need to be worrying about money right now," said Wilford.
The money will help families of heroes like Andrew Ashcraft, who leaves behind a wife and four young children. Chris MacKenzie was the son of a retired captain for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
Sean Misne was about to become a father. The lone survivor, 21-year-old Brendan McDonough carries a heavy burden. He was the team's lookout, relaying information to his team before they were overcome by flames. He barely made it out alive himself.
The fundraiser for the families is Wednesday, July 10th outside the KGET Studios. It's from 5 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. at the corner of 22nd and L Streets.
Every dollar donated will go to the families of the 19 firefighters who were killed in Arizona, fighting the Yarnell wildfire.
You can also donate at any Chase Bank. The account number is 987218757. You can also donate online at:http://www.prescottffcharities.org/how-you-can-help/