Nineteen Firefighters Dead in Prescott-Area Yarnell Hill Fire; Eighth Deadliest Fire in U.S. History

Nineteen wildland firefighters are dead in the Yarnell Hill Fire, a blaze that's forced the evacuation of dozens of homes in two Prescott-area towns and left the state grieving.

The firefighters were caught in the fast-moving fire and forced to use their portable shelters, media reports say.

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-How 19 Firefighters Died Battling the Yarnell Hill Fire

The epic scale of this tragedy can't be understated: It's the eighth-worst fire in U.S. history.

The Yarnell Hill disaster is even worse than the Great Fires of 1947 in Maine, a list of deadliest fires from our sister paper, the Denver Westword, shows.

The fire apparently ties a 1956 oil refinery fire in Texas for the fifth-worst day in firefighting history. Not since the 9/11 attacks have so many firefighters lost their lives in a single day.

Yarnell, a quaint little mountain town about 30 miles north of Wickenburg off State Route 89, and Peeples Valley are being evacuated, fire information on the web shows.

We'll be hearing a lot more about this in the days -- and years -- to come.

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Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.