"The least amount of money they spend is on the hand crews," says Turbyfill, who worked as a volunteer firefighter where he lives in Groom Creek, a few miles south of Prescott. The vast majority of the slain hotshots were making between $12 and $15 a hour, with no benefits.

Turbyfill is particularly concerned about why the Granite Mountain crew does not appear to have had ready access to portable GPS transponders that would have provided fire managers with up-to-the-minute information about the crew's location.

"[Incident commanders] were unable to identify where the crew was when they were calling for help," Turbyfill says. "And the smoke was so heavy [that those in aircraft] couldn't see. So there was no retardant dropped and no water dropped because they couldn't identify the position where they were at."

Even before such a desperate measure, GPS transponders could have provided incident commanders with precise information on the crew's location as it moved off the ridgeline and into a canyon where the fire no longer was visible to the hotshots.

If an incident commander overseeing firefighter operations knew the exact location of the Granite Mountain crew at the same time the commander observed that the fire activity was rapidly escalating and heading in the crew's direction, a warning could have been sent to the crew to retreat back to safety, Turbyfill says.

Instead, the fire raced across the landscape at about 12 miles per hour, reaching — apparently with no warning — the Granite Mountain Hotshots, who were heading directly into it. Though their spotter said they were aware that the fire had reversed direction, there's no information to suggest that they knew how fast it was moving.

Turbyfill talked to the residents of the ranch house who had cleared vegetation on the structure's perimeter and who were home when fired engulfed the chaparral surrounding the home. The fire charged at the home so fast that the couple barely had time to shelter their animals and get back inside, Turbyfill says.

And as the fire encircled the ranch, it also turned to the west and roared up the canyon, trapping the Granite Mountain Hotshots who had just descended off the ridge.

"There weren't very many minutes from the time they indicated that their escape route was cut off to when [the hotshots] were deploying shelters," Turbyfill says. "They didn't have the opportunity to retreat."

Turbyfill has no intention of silently slipping away in the aftermath of the Yarnell Hill tragedy. "I want us to figure out a better way to fight fires," he says. "I want to fight fires sooner, rather than later."

He's busy researching ways to build better fire shelters so that men and women on fire lines have a better chance of surviving an inferno.

But, ultimately, the only thing that is going to save lives in the future, he says, is for far-reaching changes to occur in how the country addresses wildfires:

"I think the reason these guys died — and the reason other guys died [working] fires — is because we make improper decisions well in advance of the fire operation itself."

« Previous Page
 |
 
1
 
2
 
All
 
My Voice Nation Help
14 comments
bluefire
bluefire

Arizonans want public services on the cheap, so outsourcing is inevitable.  The outsourcers cut the benefits, increase the working hours, depress salaries, and invest in capital equipment that is more easily billed out than human beings.  I appreciate that the Granite Valley Hotshots were dedicated and probably would have done their job for no pay at all, but for the people of Arizona to write them off even before they became the Hotshots is unforgivable.  This is a cheap state, getting cheaper.  And the climate is just going to get worse.  We can all see what's coming: firefighters who will be gambling with their lives every call, for peanuts. It's going to be ugly and on all our consciences, all the time.

rickaz59
rickaz59

If Mr. Turbyfill wants to follow the money, a good place to start may be his own backyard.

The local Prescott wildfire industry brings in revenue not only through grants and reimbursements to the city.  There is also the Arizona Wildfire Academy, operated by the NGO Arizona Wildfire Training Council, Inc., a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organization.

The Council collects  more than $ 230,000 a year – $94,000 from government grants, but most of the rest from class fees.   Its Academy helps stimulate the local economy  by attracting students from 21 states and Australia.  The mover and shaker behind this organization is Tony Sciacca, apparently someone who does not want to be interviewed by John Dougherty about the Yarnell Hill disaster.  Sciacca was incident commander on the Doce fire earlier in June, supervising  Eric Marsh and the Granite Mountain Hotshots.

Sciacca works 40 hours a week for the Wildfire Council, according to information returns filed with IRS, but he draws no salary.  Maybe he gets some of the $90,000 in “non-employee  management  compensation” reported to IRS.  This may be a good way to evade payroll taxes, but not a legal way.  Nevertheless, Sciacca serves on the five-man advisory committee (yes, they’re all men) that is delaying payouts of money contributed for the benefit of the Hotshots’ widows and other survivors, citing “tax questions” among other causes for the delay.  See today’s Prescott Courier.

rickaz59
rickaz59

You know what is missing from these stories?

The temperature that day.

The amount their equipment weighed.

The distance they had already hiked.

How much water they carried.

Two weeks later, three British soldiers died and several others were hospitalized in a training exercise in the Brecon Beacons hills of Wales.  It was described as "one of the hottest days of the year."  You know how hot it gets in Wales?  That day it was 85F.  The deaths were reported at 5:15pm.  “The hike involved marching against the clock from checkpoint to checkpoint while carrying a rifle and heavy pack.  The men were not accompanied by military instructors. Special forces insiders said candidates often pushed themselves to breaking point in their desire to join the elite regiment.”

One of the British soldiers was 24, and two were 31.  The cause of death for one of them  was given as "multiple organ failure."

At Yarnell, Dougherty's article points out that most of the Hotshots were under 30.  But the leader they followed was 43.  Adam Vinatieri is the oldest active player in the NFL. He's 41.  He's a kicker.


rickaz59
rickaz59

My question is, what resources were available when the fire was small?  The accompanying long article by Dougherty mentions that prison crews were put to work on it, without success.  The article also suggests that the Granite Mountain Hotshots were not available because they had already worked their quota of allowable days.  So, who should have been sent?

A nearby resident told me that there was another fire to the north -- not Doce, it was out by then, but a smaller one also caused by lightning -- to which crews responded earlier, and which did not grow to an unmanageable size.  How many fires can be fought in Yavapai County at one time?  Without, that is, getting the National Guard or federal military involved. 

mav.maveth
mav.maveth

Interesting. With all of his research, he seems to have missed the fact that it was not the State of Arizona who did not want this fire fought early on -- it was BLM who ordered everyone off (because it was on their land), and the BLM simply sat there and watched the fire grow for quite some time. This has been reported in at least the azcentral.com timeline of the Yarnell Hill fire. So, if he is looking to blame someone, he should blame whoever was in charge of the local BLM area -- whom I understand (from a Yarnell resident), has been conveniently transferred elsewhere.


Interesting, eh?


As for the genius known as Prescott13, "accepting the fact and moving on" would ensure that the BLM person/people directly responsible for this strategy do not face justice, i.e. face the consequences for their actions. I fully believe that they should have to do this. Since you lost no one, you obviously don't care. But the families do.

Prescott13
Prescott13

Let me start by saying that this was a great loss of life and a horrible tragedy.  

Mr. Turbyfill, since you are such an expert in wildfires and have expressed that this fire could have been easily contained, you have my vote for heading up the "National Organization of I Can Do It Better".  Please step up immediately to help contain all of the wildfires currently burning in our country so that homes and more important, lives will be spared.

To claim that fighting wildfires is a money making proposition for private industry is beyond words.  I can't even fathom that these contractors want to put their lives and lives of their employees at such risk for the monetary gain that you are insinuating.  The reason that the fire grew so quickly, from what I understand is due to the winds and weather that moved into the area Sunday - this is monsoon season and weather is unpredictable.

While I understand that you are looking for answers, they may NEVER be found.  We have to accept the fact that the Hotshots perished in the fire and move on.  

bluefire
bluefire

PS I forgot to ask:  what IS Prescott's plan for the future?  Continue to sacrifice firemen as a human moat?  In some way, armor the city against mega-fires?  Rezone so that fewer homes and workplaces are in fire-vulnerable locations?  And what can be asked of Prescott, what about all the other burgs located in increasingly fire-prone areas? Who has the Big Picture and planning responsibility?  BLM?  Parks? The State?  The cities?  Each year now bad things happen and we are exhorted to "Wait it out, it'll get better."  No it won't.  NO IT WON'T.  So what now?

goodera
goodera

@Prescott13I saw the fire Friday night from my home, and called the YFD, and was told the BLM had control of the situation, and there was nothing to be concerned about.  Sat morning, June 29th, there were occasional puffs of smoke, and it was in the hands of the ":professionals", so went about my life in my beautiful Glen Ilea, enjoying my retirement, and loving my home where I had resided for 10 years, with my cat Sarah.  By Saturday afternoon  late , the fire had grown to huge proportions, and there were a couple of little planes, and a helicoper flying around, but everyone was looking up, and asking - - What are they doing???  Why are they not doing anything aggressive???  And we continued to watch, with a sense of disbelief - -- "this can't really be happening "   kept going through my brain.    I had a sense of numbness, and looking back on it I get angry at myself for not questioning things more - - it was as if I was in a dream state.      Reading the article above, I now know what was happening, and it was like the perfect storm.   Sat, evening late, my friend was filming videos of Yarnell from above the highway, and it looked as tho all the hills behind Yarnell were ablaze. 

Sunday morning, came, and went, We saw the big plane, and thought, AT LAST

some REAL help.   But it left, too early, and never returned.  I saw the plume from the fire, and the wind picked up, around 4:00pm, and knew something had happened that was not good.  I raced from a friends house, back to my own, and got Sarah, and ran for my life - The wind was horrific, and the fire embers were everywhere.  There was NO warning for nearly anyone in Glen Ilah - - not a horn, not a call, not a siren.,  and  the majority of us were left to fend for ourselves.      When I reached the Hwy 89, the firemen and the Sheriffs Dept. and their vehicles were parked by the Ranchouse Restaurant, and the people were filing out of Glen Ilah running from the fire and smoke - -- No sirens, no horns, no one banging on doors, as was reported in the news.   When got to the motel, and turned the TV on to calm my shattered nerves, the screen said   19 Firefighters Loose their Lives"  and I just collapsed.   It was more than I could believe.   I am crying again as I write this -   Those boys should have never been there.   It was a last ditch effort to change what was a fire that had been let go too long.    And, I think I've gone on too long also, but PLEASE - do not blame Yarnell for what has happened here - -  We are still SO angry about what happened to those boys.   The love we have gotten from everyone has been wonderful, and we needed your help, and compassion.  If we do not continue this fight, those boys will have gone to their deaths, and it will happen again - - Please - - don't let it happen again.  Once you are aware of what REALLY happened here, not what was reported, I believe you will see why we continue to fight the coverup. 




roblukacs
roblukacs

@Prescott13  This man lost his son. Have you ever lost a child. I have and I can tell you he isnt going to be able to just move on as you say.

loboco76
loboco76

@Prescott13 " We have to accept the fact that the Hotshots perished in the fire and move on."

So, who, exactly, is the "we" you are referring to?  

Because you are speaking to Mr Turbyfill, am I to assume "we" includes him, and that you therefore know how best he needs to cope with his loss?  

Or are you just speaking for your namesake, the town of Prescott, perhaps as their unanimously-elected spokesperson?  

Or are you just speaking for anyone interested in the case?

Inquiring minds want to know, who are "we" that you have chosen to speak for?

Either way, I am quite sure your nomination for leading the "National Organization of I Can Do It Better" will hold some clout, considering the fact that you are apparently its founding member and president, as well as its sole member to date.   The only question there is will your nomination be accepted-- and somehow I doubt it.  Enjoy your Club of One.  

LASERDAVE
LASERDAVE

@Prescott13

First since you’re not brave or man enough to put your name to your comments, I would first say you are a coward. I didn't profess to be an expert at wild land fire tactics, but in my youth, I have served on Groom Creek Volunteer fire dept., and believe it or not we actually worked on brush fires and PUT THEM OUT. And before I move on as you put it “While I understand that you are looking for answers, they may NEVER be found.We have to accept the fact that the Hotshots perished in the fire and move on.”The answers are in front of us. Take a look at this picture of the fire on 29 June and tell me what you see. http://www.inciweb.org/incident/photograph/3461/13/the reports that I have seen and read plus looking at this picture, is that this fire burned from Friday thru Saturday midday at only a few acres.So yes it was containable and should have been put out. The State Forestry officials chose not to get after it and do the job.

About my claim that wildland firefighting is a big money proposition, then you apparently don’t realize how much it costs to fight these fires. The Doce fire in Prescott the week before 7 million, the Yarnell hills fire 5.5 million plus the live of the crew.According to the Yarnell Hill Fire Executive Summary, the fire, believed to be started by lightning strike, consumed approximately 8,377 acres; it was considered 100% contained by the evening of July 10, 2013. 114 structures destroyed, 681 personnel worked the fire. Total cost estimate: $5,444,983, broken down to portions: Personnel 23%, Camp Support 23%, Crews 11%, Equipment 15%, Supplies 3%, Aircraft 25%. So the numbers just don’t bear you out, I have been in these big fire camps and seen how they work, have you?

So what am I doing to get off my butt and do something? As you call it "National Organization of I Can Do It Better".

·Bring awareness of the Need and Responsibility for Defensible Space

·My goal for doing this interview and others I hope to do is to have a National or at least Regional discussion about the Wildland fire issues that face the Western US.

·One of Travis’ former high school classmates and I are working on a new fire shelter.

·Travis’ Mother & I are starting an Endowed Scholarship in Travis’ Honor

·Also another Endowed Wellness Fund

LASERDAVE
LASERDAVE

@Prescott13

First since you’re not brave or man enough to put your name to your comments, I would first say you are a coward. I didn't profess to be an expert at wild land fire tactics, but in my youth, I have served on Groom Creek Volunteer fire dept., and believe it or not we actually worked on brush fires and PUT THEM OUT. And before I move on as you put it “While I understand that you are looking for answers, they may NEVER be found.We have to accept the fact that the Hotshots perished in the fire and move on.”The answers are in front of us. Take a look at this picture of the fire on 29 June and tell me what you see. http://www.inciweb.org/incident/photograph/3461/13/the reports that I have seen and read plus looking at this picture, is that this fire burned from Friday thru Saturday midday at only a few acres.So yes it was containable and should have been put out. The State Forestry officials chose not to get after it and do the job.

About my claim that wildland firefighting is a big money proposition, then you apparently don’t realize how much it costs to fight these fires. The Doce fire in Prescott the week before 7 million, the Yarnell hills fire 5.5 million plus the live of the crew.According to the Yarnell Hill Fire Executive Summary, the fire, believed to be started by lightning strike, consumed approximately 8,377 acres; it was considered 100% contained by the evening of July 10, 2013. 114 structures destroyed, 681 personnel worked the fire. Total cost estimate: $5,444,983, broken down to portions: Personnel 23%, Camp Support 23%, Crews 11%, Equipment 15%, Supplies 3%, Aircraft 25%. So the numbers just don’t bear you out, I have been in these big fire camps and seen how they work, have you?

So what am I doing to get off my butt and do something? As you call it "National Organization of I Can Do It Better".

  • Bring awareness of the Need and Responsibility for Defensible Space
  • My goal for doing this interview and others I hope to do is to have a National or at least Regional discussion about the Wildland fire issues that face the Western US.
  • One of Travis’ former high school classmates and I are working on a new fire shelter.
  • Travis’ Mother & I are starting an Endowed Scholarship in Travis’ Honor.
  • Also another Endowed Wellness Fund in his Honor and for his community.

David Turbyfill 

CarlOrcas
CarlOrcas

@Prescott13 I'm sorry but accepting the deaths and moving on is not a good option. It does a disservice to the men who died.

Mr. Turbyfill raises some interesting questions. John Dougherty's story on this site also raises disturbing questions.

We owe it to the men who died and those who will follow in their footsteps to determine, to the extent we can after the fact, what happened and what can be done to prevent it from happening again.

Moving on is not an option at this point, in my opinion.

JohnQ.Public
JohnQ.Public

@laserdave  Stay persistent and stick with your line of inquiry.  The only way incidents like this don't get white washed or swept under the rug is when people like you and journalists like Dougherty persistently ask difficult questions.  I expressed it before, I am sincerely sorry for your loss, children should bury parents not the other way around, and I wish you the very, very best in discovering the answers and creating the solutions you seek,

 
Phoenix Concert Tickets

Around The Web

Loading...