Monday, July 1, 2013

Yarnell Hill Fire: Wildfire grows to more than 6,000 acres, 19 firefighters killed

ABC15 News (Arizona): Nineteen firefighters have died fighting the fast-moving Yarnell Hill Fire, the deadliest wildfire involving firefighters in the U.S. for at least three decades. The blaze had tripled in size in just hours Sunday, growing from 2,000 acres to 6,000 acres as of 11:30 p.m., according to Incident Commander Mike Reichling.

Reichling confirmed 18 of the firefighters killed in the blaze are with the Granite Mountain Hotshot crew out of Prescott . It is unclear at this time where the 19th victim is from. "We grieve for the family. We grieve for the department. We grieve for the city," Prescott Fire Chief Dan Fraijo said at a news conference Sunday evening. "We're devastated. We just lost 19 of the finest people you'll ever meet."

Reichling said that crews died when the winds turned around and they were caught in a bad situation. He said it was a catastrophic situation with dry vegetation fueling the fire. “This fire was very radical in its behavior, the fuels were very dry, the relative humidity was low, the wind was coming out of the south, it turned around on us because of monsoon action this afternoon,” Reichling said. “That’s what caused the deaths, the change in the radical behavior of the burning fuels.”

The "hotshot" firefighters were forced to deploy their fire shelters -- tent-like structures meant to shield firefighters from flames and heat -- when they were caught near the central Arizona town of Yarnell, state forestry spokesman Art Morrison said. Reichling said it is the biggest firefighter casualty in our state's history. It's also the deadliest in the U.S. for at least 30 years....

Image from space of the Horseshoe Fire in Arizona, in 2011

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