Andrew Ashcraft was one of 19 “hotshot” firefighters killed Sunday while battling the massive Yarnell, Ariz., wildfire. On Tuesday, Juliann Ashcraft, his widow and the mother of his four children, spoke out about her final interactions with the fallen hero.
In an interview with the “Today” show Tuesday, Ashcraft described the final text messages that she exchanged with her husband. Andrew and his fellow “hotshots” were battling the initial stages of the wildfire, but the blaze had yet to grow “out of control.”
Ashcraft told “Today” that she sent Andrew a picture of the couple’s kids swimming; the couple has four children, all under 6. Andrew responded by sending a text message with a picture of the fire, which he described as “wild.”
“He sent a photo of where he was sitting and what the fire looked like for them, at their lunch spot,” Ashcraft's widow told "Today" on Tuesday. “It still did not look as catastrophic as it turned out to be, but it was interesting to have that perspective, to know what life was like for him on the fire lines and know what he risked day in and day out.”
She then asked her husband if he and his team planned on sleeping in the field that evening, "Today" reports. However, she never received a text message in response. “Of course, there was no reply," Ashcraft said. "They all laid out there that night."
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“[Firefighting] was everything to him. Outside of the love he shared for his family members, hotshot firefighting was his life,” Ashcraft continued. “He had his priorities in line, but when he was there, he would tell me, ‘They say jump and I’d say, how high.’ Their main goal was to save lives."
Andrew Ashcraft was part of a group of 19 firefighters who were killed while attempting to contain the Yarnell Hill Fire, who started on Friday and destroyed as many as 500 buildings in Arizona. Authorities believe that the combination of thunderstorms and strong winds caused the firefighters to be trapped by the wildfire, Yahoo News reports. The deaths caused by the Arizona wildfire amount to the single deadliest event for American firefighters since Sept. 11, 2001.