2018 Gathering of Friends Speeaker Series
Southern Barbecue: featuring Brendan McDonough
Brendan McDonough was on the verge of becoming a hopeless, inveterate heroin addict when he, for the sake of his young daughter, decided to turn his life around. He enlisted in the Granite Mountain Hotshots, a team of elite firefighters based in Prescott, Arizona. Their superintendent, Eric Marsh, was in a desperate crunch after four hotshots left the crew, and seeing a glimmer of promise in the skinny would-be recruit, he took a chance on the unlikely McDonough. Despite the crew’s skepticism, and thanks in large part to Marsh’s firm but loving encouragement, McDonough unlocked a latent drive and dedication, going on to successfully battle a number of blazes and eventually win the confidence of the men he came to call his brothers.
Then, on June 30, 2013, while McDonough–“Donut” as he’d been dubbed by his team–served as lookout, they confronted a freak, 3,000-degree inferno in nearby Yarnell, Arizona. The relentless firestorm ultimately trapped his hotshot brothers, tragically killing all 19 of them within minutes. Nationwide, it was the greatest loss of firefighter lives since the 9/11 attacks.
The story of the Granite Mountain Hotshots came to the silver screen with the release of Only the Brave in October 2017. The film, directed by Joseph Kosinski, stars Josh Brolin, Jeff Bridges, Taylor Kitsch, and Jennifer Connelly. McDonough is portrayed by Miles Teller.
Today, Brendan McDonough continues to live in Prescott, Arizona with his daughters and fiancé.