Photo of fallen Ariz. firefighters stirs controversy

An image showing 19 body bags draped in American flags was posted on a Facebook tribute page

PRESCOTT, Ariz. — A photo of American flags draped over body bags containing the remains of the 19 Arizona firefighters who died in the Yarnell Hill Fire triggered a debate Thursday on Facebook.

USA Today reported that the image shows the scene of where the 19 firefighters died after an honor guard draped the body bags with flags while preparing to remove them from the hill the day after the fire.

The picture immediately triggered a debate over the sensitivity of posting the photo and drew a claim from at least one family member that the image was intended to stay private, according to the report.

The Facebook page was created Monday and includes many links and photos of the firefighters, mourning family members and information about donation efforts, according to the report.

"This is totally unauthorized. It's totally against anything we committed to," Prescott Fire Department’s Wildland Chief Darrell Willis said.

Prescott Fire Chief Dan Fraijo said he was unaware of the post, but said, "If it was any of our people who (posted) this, I am sure that they intended it to be in good taste."

The Facebook photo started arguments for and against posting the image publicly and many commenters simply offered condolences or saluted the firefighters. However, others criticized the page owner for posting the photo.

"This picture is very overwhelming," one person wrote. "This is a picture that should be kept private. This does not show respect for these heroes or their families. I would hope this picture would be removed."

But others said they appreciated the photo as a show of respect.

"As a firefighter of more than 25 years, I have witnessed tragedies such as this," one wrote. "I feel that this picture ... is a meaningful reminder of the sacrifice that these brave, unselfish souls gave of themselves, and paid the ultimate price."

Juliann Ashcraft, whose husband, Andrew, was among the fallen firefighters, said Thursday that she appreciated all that was done to honor the bodies, according to the report. She said she knew they were going to be photographed as a group, but the photos were to be "exclusive to the family."

She hadn't seen the photo online late Thursday, but when she heard about it, she said: "It makes me sad. But it doesn't make or break things in the end.”

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