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Feature Film Has Local Connection

‘Only The Brave’ to play Nov. 10-16

November 9, 2017
by Dan Voigt , Emmetsburg News

When the motion picture, "Only The Brave" opens Friday, Nov. 10 at the Riviera Theater in Emmetsburg, there will be a local tie to the feature film. The nephew of a local man is one of the subjects of the film.

Pastor Curtis DeFord of Emmetsburg is the uncle of Dustin DeFord, a member of the Granite Mountain Hotshots, a wildland Firefighting team from Prescott, AZ, that lost 19 members as they battled the Yarnell Hill Fire in 2013. The film is dedicated to the memory of the 19 fallen firefighters.

"My nephew Dillon came from a long family of firefighters,"?DeFord explained. "His father Steve and several of his brothers all were in the fire service in Custer County, Montana. He and his brothers grew up supporting the fire service, and Dillon had a desire to be on an elite wildland firefighting crew. He aspired to get on a crew and attained that goal by making the Granite Mountain Hotshots."

In the world of wildland firefighting, Hotshot crews are specially trained squads of firefighters who battle wildfires with picks and shovels, clearing away potential fuel for fires.

A combination of rapidly changing weather conditions and rugged terrain outside Yarnell, AZ, in June of 2013 all merged to trap the 19 crew members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots, who were forced to make a last option choice of deploying personal fire shelters, small man-sized aluminum fire shelters, in the hopes of being able to protect themselves from being overrun by the rapidly approaching flames. Tragically, all 19 members of the team perished in the fire.

The movie "Only the Brave" chronicles the tribulations of the group that trained and struggled to become certified as a Hotshot team. The film focuses on the interaction and camaraderie of the members of the team, as well as their families, through the formative days of the team, up through the team's experience in the Yarnell Hill Fire in 2013.

"My brother's family was able to view the movie before the national release, and I?think they were very pleased with the way the movie treated all of the members of the team," DeFord said. "The director and producer were very, very compassionate to all of the families affected by the fire, and all of the families were treated to a screening before the national release. My wife and I saw it, and there are some emotional moments in it for us because it was so close to home. I'm sure everyone in the theater will experience some emotions when they see it."

DeFord also noted that his brother met several of the actors from the film, who also showed great compassion in meeting the families of the Granite Mountain Hotshots.

While the movie primarily features a half-dozen members of the team, the treatment of the story of the team as a whole, as well as the members' interactions with each other and their families away from the Hotshot crew provide the gist of the story.

"Watching the movie, you could really sense the 'one for all, all for one' spirit that those men had for each other,"?DeFord said. "The sense of family and camaraderie they all had with each other is really the message of the movie, in my opinion."

According to DeFord, his nephew Dustin was 24 when he lost his life in the wildfire. "Dustin was a young man of faith and he was not shy about his faith. He had a desire to serve people in his life, through his fire service, and also to serve his Lord. He wanted to follow his father into the ministry and become a pastor at some time in his life, too. To me, that touched my heart as a pastor. Knowing that, I?think that's why the movie will touch people in an emotional way."

The movie is rated PG13, and has received highly positive reviews.

"As the movie says, it's not what's before you, it's about who's beside you,"?DeFord said.



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