The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

State and Nation

July 1, 2013

More elite fire crews go to Ariz. after 19 killed

— YARNELL, Ariz. (AP) — A sudden windstorm turned an Arizona forest fire into an out-of-control inferno that trapped and killed 19 firefighters, nearly all of them members of an elite crew of "hotshots," authorities said Monday. It was the nation's biggest loss of firefighters in a wildfire in 80 years.

The flames swept over the victims Sunday evening as they took cover in their foil-lined emergency shelters.

"This is as dark a day as I can remember," Gov. Jan Brewer said in a statement. "It may be days or longer before an investigation reveals how this tragedy occurred, but the essence we already know in our hearts: Fighting fires is dangerous work."

The windblown, lightning-sparked fire — which had exploded fourfold to about 13 square miles by Monday morning — also destroyed dozens of homes and sent hundreds fleeing from Yarnell, a town of 700 people in the mountains about 85 miles northwest of Phoenix.

Residents huddled in shelters and restaurants, watching their homes burn on TV as flames lit up the night sky in the forest above the town.

The fire killed 18 members of a hotshot crew based in nearby Prescott, plus a firefighter who was not part of the unit, Arizona Forestry Division spokesman Mike Reichling said.

One member of the hotshot crew survived because he was moving the unit's truck when the flames roared over the men, Reichling said.

"He's the only one who made it out because he was jockeying equipment at the time," Reichling said.

It was unclear exactly how the firefighters became trapped. Southwest incident team leader Clay Templin said the crew and its commanders were following safety protocols, but it appears the fire's erratic nature simply overwhelmed them.

Brian Klimowski, meteorologist in charge of the National Weather Service's Flagstaff office, said the wildfire area experienced a sudden increase and shift in wind around the time of the tragedy. It's not known how powerful the winds were, but they were enough to cause the fire to grow in size from 200 acres to about 2,000 in the matter of hours Sunday.

Text Only
State and Nation
Photos


Poll

Which foreign crisis is the biggest threat to the security of the United States?

Russia-Ukraine
Israel-Palestine
Iraq
None of the above
     View Results
Facebook
AP Video
Kerry: Humanitarian Cease-fire Efforts Continue Raw: Corruption Trial Begins for Former Va Gov. The Carbon Trap: US Exports Global Warming UN Security Council Calls for Gaza Cease-fire Traditional African Dishes Teach Healthy Eating 13 Struck by Lightning on Calif. Beach Baseball Hall of Famers Inducted Israel, Hamas Trade Fire Despite Truce in Gaza Italy's Nibali Set to Win First Tour De France Raw: Shipwrecked Concordia Completes Last Voyage Raw: Sea Turtle Hatchlings Emerge From Nest Raw: Massive Dust Storm Covers Phoenix 12-hour Cease-fire in Gaza Fighting Begins Raw: Bolivian Dancers Attempt to Break Record Raw: Israel, Palestine Supporters Rally in US Raw: Air Algerie Flight 5017 Wreckage Virginia Governor Tours Tornado Aftermath Judge Faces Heat Over Offer to Help Migrant Kids Kangaroo Goes Missing in Oklahoma More M17 Bodies Return, Sanctions on Russia Grow
Twitter Updates
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
Stocks
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
Business Marquee