Film on deadly Ari­zona wild­fire pre­mieres as Cal­i­for­nia burns

N.M.-filmed ‘Only the Brave’ about death of 19 fire­fight­ers

Santa Fe New Mexican - - LOCAL & REGION - By Clarice Sil­ber

TEMPE, Ariz. — A movie that chron­i­cles a 2013 wild­fire that killed 19 Ari­zona fire­fight­ers de­buts next week on the heels of another fire tragedy in Cal­i­for­nia that has riv­eted the na­tion.

Only the Brave is based on the Gran­ite Moun­tain Hot­shots who died while fight­ing a wild­fire near Yar­nell, Ariz. The movie was shot in and around Santa Fe.

Ac­tors from the movie ap­peared Tues­day at a red car­pet event in Ari­zona as re­lent­less fires rav­age winer­ies, ru­ral towns and neigh­bor­hoods in North­ern Cal­i­for­nia — an event not lost on the cast and crew of the pic­ture.

“When I turn the news on this morn­ing, to see im­ages that look like they were taken from our film, is sur­real,” di­rec­tor Joseph Kosin­ski said.

Cast mem­bers Josh Brolin, Miles Teller and James Badge Dale at­tended the Ari­zona pre­miere with some of the fire­fight­ers’ fam­i­lies and the lone mem­ber of the crew who sur­vived.

On June 30, 2013, the 19 elite Ari­zona wild­land fire­fight­ers were sta­tioned in a rel­a­tively safe po­si­tion on a ridgetop that al­ready had burned. But for un­known rea­sons and with­out no­ti­fy­ing any­one, they moved down the moun­tain­side through an un­burned area where they were trapped by a wall of flames when winds shifted the fire to­ward them.

Kosin­ski said he didn’t want to make a sad movie and that he wanted it to cel­e­brate the joy the men had for fire­fight­ing and the broth­er­hood they shared.

The lone sur­vivor, Bren­dan McDonough, said see­ing the movie was cathar­tic for him and he thought the movie “did our broth­ers jus­tice.”

“I think they re­ally cre­ated an au­then­tic film that re­ally shows just what the job is about, what the life­style is, what the fam­i­lies go through,” McDonough said.

McDonough served as the look­out for the crew when they de­scended into the brush-choked area. He no­ti­fied the crew of the rapidly chang­ing weather that sent winds swirling er­rat­i­cally and caused the

fire to cut off their es­cape route.

Then, he swiftly left his post for safety. Fire man­agers have said he did ex­actly what he was sup­posed to.

Brolin plays Eric Marsh, who was the crew’s su­per­in­ten­dent and the old­est mem­ber of the group.

Brolin said he loves any project that has to do with fire­fight­ers and mak­ing peo­ple con­scious that “these guys are putting them­selves in peril con­stantly … for the safety of their com­mu­ni­ties.”

Jane Marsh, Marsh’s mother, said she spent three hours with Brolin be­fore they started film­ing the movie.

“Even though I cried all through it when I first saw it in Au­gust, he por­trayed Eric re­ally well,” Marsh said.

JULIE JA­COB­SON AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS FILE PHOTO

Fire­fighter Bren­dan McDonough em­braces a mourner on July 2, 2013, dur­ing a can­dle­light vigil in Prescott, Ariz. McDonough, the only mem­ber of an Ari­zona fire­fight­ing crew to sur­vive a deadly 2013 wild­fire near Yar­nell, Ariz., at­tended the pre­miere of Only The Brave, the movie that chron­i­cles the wild­fire that killed 19 of his fel­low fire­fight­ers.

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