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Organizers launch effort to fund state memorial for Arizona firefighters

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PHOENIX – An effort to create a memorial to fallen Arizona firefighters and EMTs outside the State Capitol was already underway – and signed into law – before 19 members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots perished defending Yarnell from wildfire.

Launching an effort Tuesday to raise about $1.5 million to design, build and maintain the memorial, organizers said that tragedy makes the effort even more important.

“It focused everyone’s attention on what firefighters and paramedics do for us every single day,” said Rick DeGraw, executive vice president of SCF Arizona and one of the project’s lead fundraisers.

Gov. Jan Brewer said a memorial is long overdue.

“Scores of first responders in Arizona have died in the line of duty,” she said. “Nineteen families in Prescott are still freshly mourning loved ones.”

The memorial, approved for Wesley Bolin Memorial Plaza, will be an open area where people can sit and contemplate. It will feature a wall of honor, 11 bronze statues and 19 trees in memory of the Yarnell 19.

“Our purpose with this memorial is not to mourn, but to remember,” DeGraw said.

Funding will come from private industry and citizens. Organizers said they expect to get significant contributions and commitments from corporations by the end of the year. A website the public can use to donate will be launched later in October.

Ninety-two Arizona firefighters and paramedics have fallen in the line of duty since 1902. DeGraw said that the memorial will also include space for future additions.

“Firefighters, as crazy as they are, actually keep doing what they do day after day,” he said. “There will be more deaths. That’s one of the sad parts of the profession.”