19 Firefighters Killed in Wildfire: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

Published:12:19 am EDT, July 1, 2013| Updated:3:24 pm EDT, July 1, 2013|
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A wildfire that ripped through Yarnell, Arizona, has claimed the lives of 19 firefighters — all of them members of an elite Hotshots crew.

It's the state's deadliest ever wildland fire and America's worst loss of first-responders since 9/11.

"We just lost 19 of the finest people you'll ever meet … we're going through a terrible crisis right now," Prescott Fire Chief Dan Fraijo said as he fought back tears in a televised press conference.

Here's what you should know about the Yarnell Hill Fire and the heroes who lost their lives.


1. 19 Firefighters Are Confirmed Dead

Confirmed by Arizona state forestry officials Sunday night and reported in multiple outlets including azcentral.com, the horrific death toll sent shockwaves through the national firefighter community:

The fallen firefighters reportedly deployed their emergency fire shelters, a last resort option that looks like this:

(USFS)

(USFS)

yarnell hill fire


2. 19 Belonged to the Same Elite Hotshots Firefighting Crew

yarnell Hill fire granite mountain hotshots

All 19 of the fallen firefighters were members of the Prescott-based Granite Mountain Hotshots crew. According to this 2008 article in the local Daily Courier, the crew was the first and only city-based, certified Hotshot crew in the nation (the photo seen above accompanied that article):

The concept of a well-trained Hotshot crew originated with the U.S. Forest Service in California in 1947, and today 85 crews are certified. Only four are based outside of the federal government, and the other three are state or county based. It is only appropriate for Prescott to join the Hotshot ranks, since it is the oldest city fire department in Arizona - established in 1885.

A 2012 article in Cronkite News features footage of the Granite Mountain crew's training — including their practicing with emergency fire shelters:

yarnell fire granite mountain hotshots

The Granite State Hotshots train last year on the technique for deploying their emergency shelters — a last-resort measure that failed to save their lives on Sunday. (Screenshot via Vimeo.)

There's a Facebook tribute here. It had 102,000 likes after just four hours.

yarnell hill fire, granite mountain hotshots


3. The Blaze Engulfed an Entire Town

yarnell hill fire

The 500-home town of Yarnell was swallowed up by the inferno, with half of those homes expected to be destroyed. Evacuation of the entire town was ordered Sunday afternoon.


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4. Lightning Sparked the Blaze

The Yarnell Hill Fire, raging over thousands of acres on Sunday night, was reportedly sparked by lightning on Friday evening and rapidly grew into an uncontrollable force. As of Sunday night, it was "zero percent" contained.


5. Tricky Winds Are Fueling the Fire

yarnell hill blaze

As seen in screenshots from Fox 10 in Arizona (above) and AZCentral.com (below), shifting winds are compounding efforts to fight the blaze and may help explain how an experienced, elite crew was trapped by an unpredictable fire.

yarnell hill fire

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