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Yarnell Hill Fire Report: "Fire Behavior Was Extreme" When Firefighters Were Trapped

The Yarnell Hill Fire on June 29.
The Yarnell Hill Fire on June 29.
Arizona State Forestry Division



A preliminary report on the investigation into the Yarnell Hill Fire, which killed 19 firefighters last week, says flames "entrapped" the Granite Mountain Hotshots.

"Nineteen members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots were entrapped when flames overran their position on June 30," the report states. "Eyewitnesses state that fire behavior was extreme with heavy winds. The crew of 19 deployed fire shelters late Sunday afternoon but did not survive."

See also:
-Granite Mountain Hotshots Not Caught in "Sudden" Storm, as Media Accounts Contend
-Granite Mountain Hotshots Killed in Yarnell Hill Fire Taken Back to Prescott

The report contains little more than those facts -- which aren't exactly groundbreaking to those who have been following the developments of the incident.

The report (which can be read in its entirety on the second page of this post) says interviews are still being conducted and documentation is still being collected.

This was a "72-hour" report, and it doesn't provide answers to the many questions people have, including how to make sure something like this doesn't happen again.

There's no timeframe for a final report to be released, and a press release from the Arizona State Forestry Division says, "The process is meticulous and it will take time in order to provide the most thorough, comprehensive product possible, ensuring that lessons learned are shared across all agencies."

Meanwhile, former New Times reporter John Dougherty has been reporting on the mainstream media implication that this was a "sudden" storm in Yarnell that caused unpredictability in the fire's spread, and has questioned what kind of information about this storm was relayed to the Granite Mountain Hotshots.

After that report, the New York Times also has questioned the communication at the scene.

It sounds as if it's going to be a while before there are answers to these questions.

Meanwhile, the Yarnell Hill Fire is 90 percent contained and fewer than 250 firefighters are now battling the blaze. Yarnell residents finally will be able to go back to their homes this morning.

Read the preliminary report on the fire on the next page.

 

Subject:72‐Hour Preliminary Report, Yarnell Hill Fire

THE FOLLOWING INFORMATION IS PRELIMINARY AND SUBJECT TO CHANGE
Location: Yarnell, AZ
Date and Time of Occurrence: Late Afternoon,June 30, 2013
Team Leader: Jim Karels
Mission: Wildfire Suppression
Number of Fatalities: 19

Narrative:

The Yarnell Hill Fire started Friday, June 28, 2013, with a lightning strike on Arizona state land. The Granite Mountain Hotshots, whose members are City of Prescott Fire Department personnel but operate under Arizona State Forestry Division (ASFD) jurisdiction, were dispatched to the fire. An Arizona State Forestry Division Type 3 team was managing the fire.

Nineteen members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots were entrapped when flames overran their position on June 30. Eye witnesses state that fire behavior was extreme with heavy winds. The crew of 19 deployed fire shelters late Sunday afternoon but did not survive. The Maricopa County Medical Examiner's Office in Phoenix determined the firefighters died from burns and inhalation problems. The 20th member of the crew was serving as lookout on a small ridge a short distance away and was able to retreat when the fire reached a predetermined trigger point.

An interagency Serious Accident Investigation Team is in place. The team received a Delegation of Authority from State Forester Scott Hunt. They are conducting interviews, collecting documentation and have performed a site review of the deployment site. The intent of the investigation is to learn from the events leading up to this accident and to help prevent future occurrences.

JIM KARELS
Team Leader

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Follow Matthew Hendley on Twitter at @MatthewHendley.



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