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Biden Hails Fallen Arizona Firefighters

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden (l) shakes hands with surviving Hotshot crew member Brendan McDonough at a memorial service for the fallen members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots, in Prescott Valley, Arizona July 9, 2013.
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden says the 19 Arizona firefighters killed June 30 in a wildfire were men of "uncommon valor" who died trying to save a town.

Biden led a delegation of federal and state leaders Tuesday at a memorial service in a packed 6,000-seat arena in Prescott Valley, Arizona. He called the highly trained young firemen who died in a wind-swept inferno "some of the most disciplined and tenacious" men in the world.

Thousands of firefighters and public safety personnel from across the country were in attendance, along with Arizona Governor Jan Brewer and the state's U.S. congressional delegation.

Brewer eulogized the victims, calling each one a son of the state. She also praised people from across the country for their outpouring of support, and said it remains the duty of all Americans to help and protect the victims' families.

Precise circumstances of the deaths remain under investigation.

But authorities say the men - most of them in their 20s - apparently became trapped in a matter of seconds as a burst of gale-force winds shifted, pushing flames in their direction before they could take cover.

The tragedy marked the greatest loss of life from a U.S. wildfire in 80 years, and the highest number of firefighters killed in action since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in New York City.