Sole survivor of the Granite Mountain Hotshots to speak at GCSAA Conference and Trade Show

Brendan McDonough will speak at Thursday's Send-Off Celebration, taking over for Kyle Maynard, who is unable to attend.


Brendan McDonough

Brendan McDonough, who survived the Yarnell Hill Wildfire that killed 19 of his fellow Granite Mountain Hotshots firefighters in 2013 and was the basis of the movie “Only The Brave,” will share his story of struggle and redemption Feb. 1 during the Send-Off Celebration, presented in partnership with John Deere, at the 2024 GCSAA Conference and Trade show in Phoenix.

McDonough’s journey has been nothing short of extraordinary. A heroin addict with a daughter on the way, McDonough was facing a bleak future. After recovering from that addiction, he was given a chance to completely change his life and serve a higher purpose as a member of an elite squad of firefighters. Through painstaking work, unshakeable faith, and devotion to his new family, Brendan became an invaluable member of the “Granite Mountain Hotshots.”

After surviving the Yarnell Hill Wildfire and an unfathomable loss of 19 of his fellow firefighters in 2013, McDonough suffered from bouts of deep depression and intractable Post-Traumatic Stress. But the family who needed him, his faith in God and the memory of his brothers’ sacrifice inspired him to keep living through his darkest moments and pushed him to begin helping others. McDonough’s story of struggle and redemption leaves audiences uplifted, encouraging them to become their best selves and to seek out support when struggling.

The story of the Granite Mountain Hotshots came to the silver screen with the release of Only the Brave in October 2017. McDonough was portrayed by Miles Teller.

“Brendan’s story of persevering through incredible challenges is something that all attendees can learn from,” GCSAA CEO Rhett Evans said. “We are excited that he’ll be joining us in Phoenix to share his inspirational story.”

The Send-Off Celebration will feature McDonough along with the presentation of the GCSAA Col. John Morley Award, Emerging Leader Award, announcement of Collegiate Turf Bowl winners and introduction of the 2024 GCSAA Board of Directors.

The Send-Off Celebration will take place at 3 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 1, in Ballroom 120 at the Phoenix  Convention Center. The event is open to all GCSAA Conference and Trade Show registrants.

To register to attend the GCSAA Conference and Trade Show (which includes admission to the Send-Off Celebration and McDonough's session) and to learn more about the event, visit