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Arizona Hotshots included jokesters, fathers-to-be

  • This 2012 photo provided by Scott Marsh shows Eric Marsh, left, superintendent of the Granite Mountain Hotshots, during a visit with his cousin Scott Marsh in North Carolina. Eric was one of the 19 Granite Mountain Hotshot Crew, who was killed Sunday evening above the town of Yarnell, northwest of Phoenix, Ariz., in the nation's biggest loss of firefighters in a wildfire in 80 years. (AP Photo/Courtesy of Scott Marsh)

PRESCOTT, Ariz. — Nineteen members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots, based in Prescott, were killed Sunday when a windblown wildfire overcame them north of Phoenix. It was the deadliest single day for U.S. firefighters since 9/11. Fourteen of the victims were in their 20s. Here are the stories of those who died:

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ANDREW ASHCRAFT: AN ATHLETIC, GO-GETTER

Arizona Firefighters Die In Blaze

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Prescott High School physical education teacher and coach Lou Beneitone taught many of the Hotshots, and remembered Andrew Ashcraft, 29, as a fitness-oriented student.

"He had some athletic ability in him, and he was a go-getter, too. You could pretty much see, from young freshman all the way, he was going to be physically active."

Beneitone said athletic prowess was a must for the Hotshots. "That's what it takes. You gotta be very physically fit, and you gotta like it, gotta like the hard work."

Ashcraft, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, was honored to be a member of the Hotshot crew, and "he just had a really sweet spirit about him," Prescott resident Elise Smith told The Deseret News of Salt Lake City.

Ashcraft left behind a wife, Juliann, and four children, the newspaper reported.

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ROBERT CALDWELL: THE SMART ONE

Friends characterized Robert Caldwell, 23, as the smart man in the bunch.

"He was really smart. He had a good sense of humor," said Chase Madrid, who worked as a Hotshot for two years, but sat this year out.

"He was one of the smart guys in the crew who could get the weather, figure out the mathematics. It was just natural for him," Madrid said.

It was Caldwell's intelligence and know-how that got him appointed as a squad boss.

His cousin, Grant McKee, also was one of the Hotshots killed Sunday.

"Robert was a gentle giant — he was man of few words," said his aunt, Laurie McKee.

He had just gotten married in November, and had a 5-year-old stepson.

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