Yarnell Hill Fire: Readers Respond to Cover Story on Granite Mountain Hotshots

Following John Dougherty's report on the growing evidence that the Granite Mountain Hotshots never should have been deployed to the fire that killed almost the entire crew, some interesting responses to the story showed up in New Times' mailbag.

A former Prescott mayor, a former hotshot, and others sent us their two cents on Dougherty's report. Check out their responses:

See also:
-Hotshots Never Should've Been Deployed, Mounting Evidence Shows

"Thanks for this great piece of investigative reporting. I am amazed that neither the local Prescott newspaper (Daily Courier) of the local E-Zine seems to be incapable of doing anything close to investigative reporting.

"It currently looks like the Prescott elected officials and top city management have adopted 'circle the wagons' strategy and it appears to me that the news releases are being written or vetted by the City Attorney. The city has also hired a Phoenix public relations firms to help with additional 'air cover' or fallout (or more accurately, CYA)."

Keep up the good work.
Jack D. Wilson
Prescott Mayor Nov. 2007-Nov. 2009

As a resident of Prescott , I am somewhat relieved to finally have an article come out regarding the yarnell fire and the hotshots that answered some of my questions and lead me to ask many more . One of the questions I had for a very long time was.. what ranch was the ranch the hotshots may have been going to protect ? Who owned it ? ( person /company ) Ive only seen a rough map of the area , I cant find a ranch anywhere ? Interesting when you go to the Yavapai county assessors mapping page and put in address's from google maps they come up as none existent in trying to research parcels in the area.

FYI: Here's an aerial map that includes the ranch -- those buildings on the lighter-colored piece of land. The gold star is the approximate location of where the hotshots died.

See more reader responses on the next page.

Folks -

Your reporter, John Dougherty, got so many things right in his story on the Yarnell Hill Fire. He went to the trouble to find people who are experts in wildland fire, people that led him to the numerous deficiencies and faulty decisions that led to the tragedy at Yarnell Hill. This is the first writing I have seen that goes beyond the ludicrous statements citing "accidents" and "acts of God" to get to the real story. As a former hotshot, I can assure you that only an inexperienced crew with deficient leadership would have done what they did. Leaving "the black" to dive into "the green" toward active fire with no lookout; without even the knowledge of where the fire was located and current fire behavior, is wrong on so many levels; a violation of almost all of the "Ten Standard Fire Fighting Orders", not to mention the "danger signals that shout watch out" that all firefighters learn in basic training. Look those up. They're the core of why people don't die on wild fires. This story is one of ignorance and hubris at so many levels in the fire organization.

You're asking the right questions of the right people. Keep it up. There may be a journalism award there for you, maybe even a book.

Gordon Bonser
Redding Hotshots, Class of 1974

Thanks for the article about the Yarnell Hill blaze. I worked on several fires as a micrometeorologist - enough to realize that that the ad hoc command structure that results when Federal, state, and local agencies must interface in an emergency response always results in confusion because the explicit and implicit priorities of the agencies conflict. The property vs lives priorities endanger those who are exposed, and the managers of the agencies do not always resolve the conflict to put lives first. This results in taking risks that belong to insurance companies instead of humans. I'm a bit cynical, but I've seen far too much of this."

Roger Korn
Rimrock, AZ

John, Thank you for doing the recent article on Yarnell Hill.It is not always popular to try and keep government accountable but it needs to happen if we want to see things change.I have fought fire for 25 years and currently train and provide fierfighters and equipment to the Forest Service. In late July this year my local newspaper quoted me as saying that until the public holds upper fire management accountable (land agencies)we will continue to have these injuries and fatalities. As a fire industry we would be able to avoid 95% of all fire fatalities if us wildland firefighters were allowed to follow our current safety policies. As a result of this article, my fire contract was suspended and all of my crews were sent home. I was told informally by the Forest Service that it is not a good idea to 'break rank. Even though my company and employees are not working I know I did the right thing. For the reaction I received the truth must have hit close to home. You are welcome to contact me if you wish.
Bear Mountain Fire

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Follow Matthew Hendley on Twitter at @MatthewHendley.

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