Surviving firefighter in Dude Fire speaks out on Yarnell tragedy - FOX 29 News Philadelphia | WTXF-TV

Surviving firefighter in 1990 Dude Fire speaks out on Yarnell tragedy

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PAYSON, Ariz. -

Back in 1990, six firefighters lost their lives fighting the Dude Fire near Payson. There are similarities between the Yarnell Fire and the Dude Fire.

Both were started by lightning, and sadly, both claimed the lives of those trying to fight it.

We spoke to one of the survivors who recalls what it was like as he literally ran through a wall of flames.

Geoffrey Hatch's story is incredible. He was just 27 when he was sent to fight the Dude Fire.

He says the recent death of the 19 Prescott firefighters have brought back a lot of painful memories.

June 26th, 1990 up in Payson, Arizona. That's a date and place Geoffrey Hatch will never forget.

"We were cutting line with other crews and all of a sudden fire came at us from out of nowhere," he says.

Hatch was one of 11 firefighters that afternoon, 23 years ago, fighting the dude fire, when the wind shifted trapping the men. They immediately deployed their emergency shelters.

"I tried to save somebody else with my shelter because their shelter was gone. I took off running. I was running to get away from them. In my mind, they were going to live -- I wasn't. I wanted to get away from them. I didn't want them to see me like that."

Hatch ran blindly through ferocious flames. To his surprise he survived. But six of his men did not.

"I did not actually burn, I baked is what the doctors said, inside my Nomex."

65 percent of his body was severely burned.

"I have the reminder everywhere."

Hatch says the recent death of the 19 hotshots from Prescott left a pit in his stomach.

"Stuff like what happened up there. It happens, you can't stop it, you can't change it, you can't predict it, you can come close but you will not stop Mother Nature from what she does."

Hatch says it will be difficult for, Brendan McDonough, the lone survivor of the Yarnell fire. But he says hotshots are a tight-knit group that will support one another during this difficult time.

"We're all a family, that's the only thing I can say, we're one huge family that sticks together."

Hatch told us he would like to meet with the lone survivor of the Yarnell Fire to offer his support.

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