Andrew Sterling Ashcraft Yarnell Hill Fire - KPTV - FOX 12

Andrew Sterling Ashcraft

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Andrew Sterling Ashcraft Andrew Sterling Ashcraft
YARNELL, AZ (CBS5) -

Andrew Ashcraft, 29, was married to his wife, Juliann, and had four children.

He texted his wife a picture from the fire on Sunday, just hours before he died.

"It was out of the ordinary because he said, 'This is getting wild,' and, 'Peeple's Valley and Yarnell are looking to burn,'" Juliann Ashcraft told CBS News. "That is not common language because usually, he gets the thrill (fighting) the fire, from being there and helping. And this was a different scenario."

Juliann Crockett Ashcraft said she heard and saw reports the firefighters had died, but did not know for sure until authorities came to the door with the news.

The last photo Andrew sent her was posted by the Prescott Granite Mountain Hotshots on their Facebook page.

Andrew Sterling Ashcraft was born in Orange, CA, to parents Debrah Pfingston and Thomas Ashcraft. At the age of 5, Andrew moved to Prescott with his family, where he would spend the next 24 years of his life.

He loved his brother Thomas James (T.J.) Ashcraft II, and his sister Shelby Laura Pfingston immensely. While growing up in Prescott, Andrew attended Abia Judd Elementary School, Mile High Middle School, and graduated from Prescott High School in 2003. It was at Prescott High that he met the love of his life, Juliann Crockett Ashcraft. The two were married on July 22, 2006, in Prescott. Andrew and Juliann welcomed their first son, Ryder Sterling, into the world on June 4, 2007. As their family grew, their daughter, Shiloh, was born on March 21, 2009. On August 22, 2010, Tate Andrew, the couple's second son, joined the family. And finally, born on Andrew's birthday, Feb. 15, 2012, Andrew and Juliann's youngest son, Choice Crockett, was born.

Andrew became a member of the Granite Mountain Hot Shots in 2011 and was awarded "Rookie of the Year" honors for that fire season. He loved every second of his time on the crew and had dreamed of being a firefighter since he was a boy. Andrew was known for his contagious smile, his heart of gold, his genuinely kind spirit and for loving his mustache. He was an active member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Most importantly, though, he was a loving husband, a tender father and a friend to all.

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

"He had some athletic ability in him, and he was a go-getter, too," Beneitone said. "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've got to be very physically fit, and you've got to like it, got to like the hard work," Beneitone said.

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

"We would watch Andrew and Juliann marry and have children," said Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett. He said his daughter is a close friend of the Ashcrafts and said he can only imagine what their family is now going through.

"Juliann was always concerned when he was fighting this fire, but he had always come home," Bennett said. "Seven, eight, later we get a call that this time he didn't come home." 

Juliann Ashcraft said the children are too young to understand.

"I've told them every chance I've gotten since then, 'your dad loves you, and he's with you,' and they just call him their angel, and they said they'll see him in heaven, Juliann Ashcraft said.

Andrew Ashcraft's mother, Deborah Pfingston, is struggling with the same emotions.

"Last night when I was praying, because I always would text Andrew when he was out on a fire, 'Be strong, be wise, be safe' and I said, 'OK God, I don't understand it. But thank you that he wasn't alone. Thank you that he was, that they were together," Pfingston said.

Pfingston said they'd done everything together: ate, slept outside and trained.

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