Thousands gather to pay tribute to fallen US firefighters

Thousands of people have descended on a sports hall in central Arizona to pay tribute to the 19 elite firefighters who died trying to control a wildfire in the US state on June 30.

Firefighters pray in front of a memorial dedicated to the 19 firefighters Credit: REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

The mourners included US Vice President Joe Biden and firefighters from around the country including one, Brendan McDonough, who survived the wildfire while his comrades fell around him.

Mourners wait for the start of the memorial service in Prescott Valley, Arizona Credit: REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

A 6,000-seat sports hall in Prescott Valley, where the memorial service is to be held, was completely filled and organisers had to set up giant screens outside.

A fence in Prescott, Arizona has become a virtual shrine to the firefighters with hundreds of mementos left Credit: REUTERS/Mike Blake