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4th anniversary of the Granite Mountain Hotshots tragedy

4th anniversary of the Granite Mountain Hotshots tragedy (Photo Granite Mountain Hotshots)

Four years ago, 19 Arizona fire fighters died in one of the deadliest wildfires in U.S. history.

On Friday, a bell will ring for each of them, during a memorial for the Granite Mountain Hotshots.

Martin Savidge with CNN spoke to their loved ones at a site dedicated to them for going beyond the call of duty.

The 19 brave men were fighting the Yarnell Hill Fire, a wildfire started by lightning on June, 28, 2013.

A wind shift later sends flames racing toward the team trapping them in a box canyon.

On the radio you could here: "Our escape route is cut off!"

All 19 men die.

In the aftermath friends, family and officials work to preserve the now hallowed ground and the memories of those lost.

Sue Black with Arizona State Parks and Trails said, “We had to get it right, you had to get it right."

The result, a memorial like no other, that will test your heart... as well as break it.

It’s a rugged 7-mile trail, climbing more than 1,000 feet up the side of a mountain.

29-year-old Andrew Ashcraft, was one of the hotshots killed. His mom, Debra Phingston, remembers him returning from other fires, covered in soot, a smile on his face smelling of smoke as he hugged her. “After we lost him there were times I would say to my husband can you just put a fire in the fireplace I just need to smell Andrew for a minute,” said Debra.

On the trail there are carefully placed plaques every 600 feet, which means every so often you meet a new member of the crew.

The hard climb gives visitors a taste of what hotshot work is like, the spectacular view, the reason they do it.

The last part of the trail is the hardest of all, a 600 foot decent, all the while following in the same path of the Granite Mountain crew that day. It's tough physically, it's very tough emotionally because you end up in the place where the men made their last stand.

Iron crosses mark where each fire fighter was found, tightly clustered. The men were as close to each other in death as they were in life.

Scorched trees still attest to the fire four years later.

It's a sacred place to the families, but also to another family... fire fighters can often be found visiting the site, sometimes entire teams, to pay their respects.

Four years after the deaths of 19 Granite Mountain Hotshots, their memorial is a trail for remembering and a path toward healing.

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