ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) - Some of the more memorable images that have emerged of the members of the fallen Granite Mountain Hotshot Crew were taken by a New Mexico Photographer.
"It was just a random occurrence that I got placed with these guys," Jakob Schiller said.
The crew, based out of Prescott, Arizona, was in Southeast New Mexico helping to fight the flames of the Whitewater Baldy Complex Fire.
"I definitely think the word elite - which is what every body's been using to describe these guys is accurate because only a few people can do that job and do it well," he said.
Schiller said he learned that 19 firefighters had been killed in Arizona on Sunday night from an alert on his phone but it wasn't until Monday morning when he learned who they were.
He said he awoke to find his email inbox full of requests from major media outlets around the globe.
"From about six o'clock in the morning on Monday till almost the end of the day on Tuesday it was just, it was insanity," Schiller said.
They were all requesting the rights to the photos he took of the crew last year, in their element on the front lines of a wildfire, Schiller has hundreds of them.
In his time with the crew he said he photographed five of the men who lost their lives fighting the Yarnell Hill Fire on Sunday.
"I think the photos capture their personalities as best as possible," he said.
Part of that was thanks to the men themselves, Schiller said they were all really good sports, allowing him free range to do his job, within a safe degree and even honored a special request of his.
"I had each guy stand up and I took his portrait and I had him take his sunglasses off and ya know the guys were all giving them a hard time," He said adding, "it was their one opportunity to sit down and get a breather but they still stood up and let me poke a camera in their face."
While it would have been very easy to distribute the photographs to anyone and everyone Schiller took great care in who he licensed his work to.
"The entire world wanted these photos and for me it was about getting them out to the appropriate places and in an appropriate way," he said adding, "They're sacred and important because they show people who have died and they needed to be treated with a certain amount of respect."
He gave the New York Times the exclusive on Monday then CBS National the next day, they have now been seen all around the world.
Even so, Schiller said he actually saw his photos in a new way after hearing the news.
"When I looked at the photos again that morning you know I noticed things I hadn't noticed before, like I noticed wedding rings," he said.
As the investigation into how this tragedy unfolded moves forward, Schiller like many others has questions about how it could happen to such a highly skilled a trained group of wildland firefighters.
"These guys were so safe and so confident and so well trained and they never pushed it the day I was there," said Schiller.
In the wake of this tragedy, Schiller's name and his work will forever be associated with this elite crew, something he is still trying to wrap his head around.
"I'm honored that these photos will sort of be how these guys are remembered and I think that's something that I'll always keep with me," he said.