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Durham firefighter to take part in Arizona memorial service

DURHAM — A Durham firefighter will take part in a memorial service Tuesday for 19 members of an elite firefighting squad that lost their lives battling a wildfire last month.

Durham Firefighter Scott McGrath flew out to Arizona Sunday morning to help honor the 19 members of the Arizona Granite Mountain Hotshots killed June 30 while battling a wildfire in Yarnell, Ariz.

"He was a part of that unit once, and knew a few of the firefighters that were killed," said Scott's wife, Jessica McGrath, Sunday night. "He knew the team leader, Eric Marsh. He is going to be a part of the memorial service."

A 20-member crew of Granite Mountain Hotshots were battling a wildfire in Yarnell, Ariz., on June 30 when the wind changed and redirected the intense flames at their position. Only the unit's lookout, who was stationed on a nearby hilltop, survived the disaster.

Tuesday's memorial service for all 19 firefighters killed battling the Yarnell Hill wildfire will be held at Tim's Toyota Center arena in Prescott Valley. The service will start at 11 a.m. The facility can seat 5,000 people.

Vice President Joe Biden will travel on Tuesday to Arizona to attend the memorial service.

Jessica McGrath said her family built a small memorial to the 19 firefighters in the yard of their home, and that her husband is honored to take part in the service.

"We're so grateful to the Durham Fire Department and the union for making this possible," said Jessica. "It means so much to our family."

Attempts to reach Scott McGrath in Arizona Sunday night were unsuccessful.

The firefighters lost their lives while working to contain a blaze that, through Friday, had burned 8,400 acres and destroyed 129 homes north of Phoenix. Officials said on Thursday that the fire had been 80 percent contained.

The deaths of the high-skilled firefighters marked the deadliest loss of life for a U.S. fire department since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

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