Juliann Ashcraft, widow of Andrew Ashcraft, who was one of the 19 firefighters who died while battling the Arizona wildfire on Sunday, spoke to "Today" about the final text messages she exchanged with her husband.
Juliann said she sent her husband a photo of their four children, all under 6, swimming. Juliann told "Today" that Andrew replied that he missed and loved them. He also asked his wife to tell their oldest son that he was proud of him for speaking at their church and that he was sorry he had missed it.
"He sent a photo of where he was sitting and what the fire looked like for them, at their lunch spot," Juliann told "Today." "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."
Juliann said her husband was "the most amazing man, the best person I know." She said Andrew had a "contagious smile and a heart of gold."
She also praised the other firefighters who gave their lives.
"They were heroes in our home, they were heroes in our community," she told "Today." "They were heroes to the people that they helped there. Our kids will remember them as heroes as well.”
Juliann said working on the front lines and protecting people "was everything to him. Outside of the love he shared for his family members, hotshot firefighting was his life. 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."
"They loved what they did. These men worked together," she said. "They lived together, they fought fires together, and they died together doing what they loved."
Officials believe the combination of dry thunderstorms, strong winds and high temperatures led to the firefighters becoming trapped by the fire.
Gov. Jan Brewer said in a statement, "This is as dark a day as I can remember. It may be days or longer before an investigation reveals how this tragedy occurred, but the essence we already know in our hearts: Fighting fires is dangerous work."
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