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Fire Chief Describes Events Leading Up to the Deaths of Granite Mountain Hotshots

Prescott Wildland Division Chief Darrell Willis
Prescott Wildland Division Chief Darrell Willis
via John Dougherty

A co-founder of the Granite Mountain Hotshots crew described the events leading up to the deaths of 19 firefighters in the Yarnell Hill Fire from the location where the firefighters deployed their fire shelters as a last resort in an attempt to stay alive.

Although official reports are still to be released, Prescott Wildland Division Chief Darrell Willis gave some perspective and details on what happened on the afternoon of June 30.

See also:
-Granite Mountain Hotshots Memorial Placed at Location Where 19 Firefighters Died

Former New Times reporter John Dougherty recorded Willis' explanation in full.

Willis pointed out a few locations relative to the scene, including where surviving member Brendan McDonough had been and where Hotshot Andrew Ashcraft sent a photo to his wife while eating lunch -- perhaps the last photo taken of the Hotshots alive.

A photo firefighter Andrew Ashcraft sent to his wife before Ashcroft and 18 of his colleagues died fighting the Yarnell Hill Fire.
A photo firefighter Andrew Ashcraft sent to his wife before Ashcroft and 18 of his colleagues died fighting the Yarnell Hill Fire.
Juliann Ashcraft via breakingnews.com

From the location where the firefighters deployed their individual shelters, a llama ranch can be seen, with structures that presumably could have been used as shelters.

Interestingly, Dougherty reports, "Reporters were asked not to photograph a nearby ranch compound that has the closest undamaged structures to where the Granite Mountain Hotshots died of a combination of burns, smoke inhalation, and carbon monoxide poisoning just 500 yards away."

The approximate area of the deployment site (gold star) wasn't that far from a ranch to the east.
The approximate area of the deployment site (gold star) wasn't that far from a ranch to the east.
Google Maps

While the firefighters were in the small canyon to the west of that ranch, they ended up getting trapped by the flames.

Willis stressed that the firefighters' priority was to protect that ranch. There's also a residential neighborhood immediately east of that ranch, where several homes ended up being destroyed.

See Willis' comments, in full, in the videos below, recorded by Dougherty:

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Follow Matthew Hendley on Twitter at @MatthewHendley.


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