Arizona Endures Pain of Losing 19 Firefighters

Arizona Endures Pain of Losing 19 Firefighters

Nineteen firefighters of an elite wildfire team called the “Granite Mountain Hotshots” died on Sunday after a change in wind direction caused the fire to overtake the firefighters.

“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,” Reichling told CNN affiliate KNXV. “That’s what caused the deaths.”

The 19 firemen deployed their emergency shelters as they are supposed to if they become trapped and escape routes are blocked and entrapment is imminent. They are trained to step into the tent like gear, lie face down on the ground and close the resistant fabric over their body.

“It’ll protect you, but only for a short amount of time. If the fire quickly burns over you, you’ll probably survive that,” said Prescott Fire Capt. Jeff Knotek. But “if it burns intensely for any amount of time while you’re in that thing, there’s nothing that’s going to save you from that.”

The firemen of the hotshot teams are trained to work on the frontline of wildfires, building barriers to contain the fire and to protect structures.

According to the city of Prescott the firemen lost are : Eric March, 43-superintendent; Andrew Ashcraft, 29; Robert Caldwell, 23; Travis Carter, 31; Dustin Deford, 24; Christopher MacKenzie, 30; Grant McKee, 21; Sean Misner, 26; Scott Norris, 28; Wade Parker, 22; John Percin, 24; Anthony Rose, 23; Jesse Steed, 36; Joe Thurston, 32; Travis Turbyfill, 27; William Warneke, 25; Clayton Whitted, 28; Kevin Woyjeck, 21; and Garret Zuppiger, 27.

“As we face the day the highest priority is for the fallen comrades,” said Roy Hall, an incident commander with the state forestry division. “We got a lot of hotshot crews in the nation, and they are the elite of the ground firefighters. They’re highly trained and highly specialized. They are a younger generation. That’s the tragedy of it, that lives would be lost of such a young group.”

The fire is still not contained about 400 hundred people are on the ground fighting it and approximately 100 incident management staff are assisting.

Hotshot teams are made up of 20 firefighters, only one of the Granite Mountain Hotshots survived and that was because he was moving the truck.

The U.S Forest Service website states that there are 110 Hotshot crews in the U.S.  These teams are made up of 20 members who go through an arduous specialized training.

“A hotshot crew are the elite firefighters,” state forestry spokesman Art Morrison said. “They’re usually (a) 20-person crew, and they’re the ones who actually go in and dig the fire line, cut the brush to make a fuel break. And so they would be as close to the fire as they felt they safely could.”

“In normal circumstances, when you’re digging fire line, you make sure you have a good escape route, and you have a safety zone set up,” Morrison said. “Evidently, their safety zone wasn’t big enough, and the fire just overtook them.”

The Yarnell Hill fire,which started from a lightning strike, has proved to be one of the deadliest in Arizona’s history with 19 dead and a number of injured.

By: Veverly Edwards

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