Should the City of Prescott Rebuild Its Hotshot Crew?
Kyle T. Webster
In the aftermath of the Yarnell Hill Fire, which killed 19 of the 20 members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots, reports indicate that the city wants to rebuild its crew.
While it's still in the planning stages, it may not be the best idea, considering the issues surrounding the crew that was lost in Yarnell.
John Dougherty's report this week outlines several issues surrounding the crew, leading up to their deaths.
One wildfire expert told Dougherty, "The absolute worst outcome from this horrible event is for the city of Prescott to get another crew."
Keeping in mind that there's been no firefighter-death incident like this in recent history, consider some of the problems -- the crew didn't meet certification standards, after the Prescott City Council voted to eliminate two full-time positions from the crew last year. (This has also created major blow-back, now that some of the Hotshots' families are discovering that they're not entitled to benefits as survivors.)
The Prescott Fire Department has not turned over copies of the crew's annual "preparedness review," and the crew's superintendent -- who also died in the fire -- wrote in an employment review in May that it's "challenging to run a nationally recognized program with minimum standards and requirements that I am unable to meet."
Additionally, several officials have asserted that the crew was trying to protect a nearby ranch when the crew was overrun by flames. At least one former hotshot supervisor said the blending of a hotshot crew with a municipal fire department may have created some misplaced priorities for the men.
"There is absolutely no other explanation that I can come up with, no matter how much I think about it, except that their priority mission was to protect structures," former hotshot supervisor Gary Olson told Dougherty. "That may be what structural firefighters do, but there should be no way in hell that is what wildland firefighters do, especially when they are on foot and carrying hand tools."
Based on what you know, and what Dougherty has discovered, do you think Prescott should rebuild its hotshot crew?
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Follow Matthew Hendley on Twitter at @MatthewHendley.
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