In the days and weeks following the deaths of 19 out of 20 Granite Mountain Hotshots in the Yarnell Hill Fire, Governor Jan Brewer and Arizona officials have pushed for federal disaster money to help foot the bill for the fire-recovery effort.
In early August, FEMA denied Arizona's request for funds, angering Brewer and other politicians, including senators John McCain and Jeff Flake.
But in this week's cover story, John Dougherty reports the city of Prescott had been running the hotshot crew on a shoestring budget while collecting federal grant money and reimbursement funds before the Yarnell Hill tragedy.
The city got reimbursed $39 an hour per man while the crew was deployed on state and federal land. Fourteen of the 20 hotshots (the seasonal members of the crew) earned just $12 to $15 an hour. And of the city's Wildland Division 2013 budget of $1.35 million, Prescott contributed $317,000, Dougherty reports.
State officials also disregarded a federal refusal to authorize sending the Granite Mountain Hotshots in to the Yarnell Hill Fire.
"Dispatch logs show that the Granite Mountain crew should not have been deployed to fight the Yarnell Hill Fire," writes Dougherty. "The federal Southwest Coordinating Center in Albuquerque -- in charge of dispatching hotshot crews based in Arizona and New Mexico -- refused Arizona's repeated requests to send the unit to Yarnell."
Despite being denied authorization to send the crew in to the fire, the Arizona State Forestry Division contacted the Granite Mountain crew's superintendent, Eric Marsh, directly and asked him to send in his team. He complied.
All but one member of the hotshot crew, spotter Brendan McDonough, died when a strong thunderstorm with high winds whipped the fire into a frenzy and sent it directly toward the hotshots. According to Dougherty, speculation is that the hotshots left their relatively safe location in a burned out tract of land and hiked into a canyon with dense chaparral in order to save a ranch in the area.
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But what exactly the motivation was is unknown.
See Also: A Granite Mountain Hotshot's Father Says the Blaze That Incinerated His Son Could've Been Controlled See Also: Closer Look: How 19 Granite Mountain Hotshots Died in the Yarnell Hill Fire (Slideshow)