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Procession brings home fallen Arizona firefighters

A large crowd gathered on Sunday in Phoenix as a motorcade of hearses carrying the remains of 19 members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots firefighting team left the medical examiner’s office and traveled to Prescott, Ariz.

Ralph D. Preso/Reuters

A large crowd gathered on Sunday in Phoenix as a motorcade of hearses carrying the remains of 19 members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots firefighting team left the medical examiner’s office and traveled to Prescott, Ariz.

PRESCOTT, Ariz. — Firefighters held a 125-mile procession Sunday to bring the bodies of 19 colleagues who died in a wildfire a week ago from Phoenix to the mountain community where they lived.

Nineteen hearses departed from the medical examiner’s office in Phoenix, rolled past a collection of firefighters outside the Arizona State House complex, and passed through the community of Yarnell where the 19 died.

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Firefighters and police officers held hands over their hearts or saluted as the motorcycle-led escort slowly drove by, and a quartet of bagpipers played a mournful march. The firefighters’ names were posted on a window of each hearse.

The procession included several firefighting vehicles, including a truck that bore the name of the elite crew to which the 19 firefighters who died on June 30 belonged, the Granite Mountain Hotshots.

Lon Reiman of Scottsdale carried two small US flags as he waited for the procession to begin. Reiman said he has several relatives who are firefighters and thought of them once he heard the news of the deaths.

‘‘When you think about their wives, their families and their kids, it just brings tears to your eyes,’’ Reiman said.

Since their fellow firefighters arrived at the scene where they were killed, the fallen firefighters have not been alone, a tradition among those in the profession in the United States.

‘‘Since they were discovered, they have never been out of the presence of a brother firefighter,’’ said Paul Bourgeois, a Phoenix-area fire chief who is acting as a spokesman in Prescott for the firefighters’ families. ‘‘From the time they were taken to the medical examiner in Phoenix, while they’re at the medical examiner’s office, when they are received in a funeral home — there will always be a brother firefighter on site with them until they are interred.”

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