Multiple firefighter fatalities on the Yarnell Fire in Arizona

(UPDATED at 2:26 p.m. MDT, July 15, 2013)

Most of the funerals are over for the 19 members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots that were killed on the Yarnell Hill Fire June 30. From information provided by the incident management team that organized the services, the firefighters are listed below.

19 Granite Mountain Hotshots

The incident management team has posted hundreds of photos of the memorial service, the procession, and the planning.

****

(UPDATED at 10:20 a.m. MDT, July 5, 2013)

An article in the LA Times has some previously unpublished information about the last moments of the Granite Mountain 19. Apparently the crew was attempting to establish an anchor point, presumably at what had previously been the heel, or rear of the fire. They were constructing fireline and may have been burning out that day. A photo that I had not seen before that was texted to the father of one of the firefighters father at 4:04 p.m. shows a firefighter in what appears to be a burned area, looking at the fire. The text said: “This thing is running straight for Yarnell”. By 4:47 p.m. the Arizona State Forestry Division received word sent up through channels that fire shelters had been deployed on the Yarnell Hill Fire.

Below is an excerpt from the article:

Team leader [Crew Superintendent] Eric Marsh told his commanders via radio that the group had a predetermined safety zone. “He was calm, cool and collected,” Ward said. “They all stayed together. Nobody ran.”

Moments later — Ward doesn’t know how long — Marsh radioed his superiors a second time. This message was different: He and his men were going to deploy the small emergency shelters that were their last resort against an advancing fire.

“From what I’ve heard, it was the calmest they’ve ever heard Eric,” Ward said. “They were in a tight spot and everyone knew this was going to be a bitch. But his voice was very calm: ‘We’re deploying.’ ”

Fire officials tried desperately to save the men.

Danny Parker, a fire battalion chief from the nearby Chino Valley Fire Department whose son Wade Parker died with the other Granite Mountain crew members, said he learned from colleagues that his son was in trouble.

“They had deployed their emergency shelters, and helicopter crews were trying desperately to spot them through dense smoke,” he said, wiping tears from his eyes.

He said he was told that Sikorsky helicopters were making water drops in areas where they thought the trapped firefighters might be.

“They weren’t sure about the men’s position because they couldn’t see through the smoke,” he said.

Their bodies were found in a single group, huddled together.

****

An Associated Press article provides some information about the autopsies of the firefighters:

Cari Gerchick, a spokeswoman for the Maricopa County Medical Examiner’s Office in Phoenix, said the Hotshots died from burns, carbon monoxide poisoning or oxygen deprivation, or a combination of the factors. The autopsies were performed Tuesday, but more detailed autopsy reports should be released in three months, pending lab work.

****

The Prescott Fire Department has brought in an Incident Management Team to help plan the events related to the deaths of the firefighters. They have established a web site that appears to be devoted to the scheduled events, as well as a Facebook page for photos and other information.

Their web site said that on Sunday, June 7 the remains of the 19 fallen fire fighters will be escorted with full Honor Guard from Phoenix to the Yavapai County Medical Examiner’s Office in Prescott. The procession will begin at 10 a.m. but the exact route is still being planned.

AZCentral has an article about a photo that has stirred some controversy. It shows flags draped over what appear to be body bags containing the 19 dead firefighters. They said the photo appeared on a Facebook page described on the site as “a community, news, and donation page (that) is not directly related to the Granite Mountain Hotshots personally.” AZCentral did not provide a link to the page or give its exact name but they do have a copy of the photo.

****

(UPDATED at 7 p.m. MDT, July 3, 2013)

(Information about the Yarnell Hill Fire itself is in our main article about the fire. This one is devoted to the 19 firefighters that died.)

The memorial service, not the funerals, for the Granite Mountain 19 will be held Tuesday, July 9 from 11 am to 1 pm at the Tim’s Toyota Center in Prescott Valley. There will be seating for 6,000 attendees with room for overflow outside.

****

According to the Professional Fire Fighters of Arizona, the 3 official fundraising efforts to help the families of the fallen have raised about $700,000.

  • The 100 Club has raised approximately $500,000.
  • The Wildland Firefighters Foundation (52 Club) has raised approximately $120,000.
  • The United Phoenix Fire Fighters and Prescott Firefighters Charities have raised approximately $80,000. They can receive donations through PayPal.

In the Prescott/Yarnell area, two local fundraising events have been scheduled for this week.

  • 4th of July Fireworks at Pioneer Park from 12 noon to 10 pm.
  • Whiskey Row Street Dance on Saturday, July 6th 5-11pm

Other fundraising events will be announced in the days to come.

****

Residents of Yarnell can obtain updates on the status of their property by calling the County Emergency Operations Center at 928-777-7481.

****

In the first 24 hours following the entrapment there were reports that up to six people had been injured and were being treated in hospitals, but there were no injuries, according to a spokesperson for the fire. There were 19 fatalities.

****

The crew carriers of the Granite Mountain Hotshots were removed from the fire where they had been parked by the crew, to Prescott today. Prescott Fire, Prescott Interagency Hotshot Crew, and Ironwood Hotshot Crew escorted the group from the Yarnell Hill Fire to the City of Prescott.

****

On Sunday, July 6, the Granite Mountain 19 will be escorted from the Medical Examiner’s Office in Phoenix to the Medical Examiner’s Office in Prescott. There will be 19 hearses, each with an honor guard member to accompany the fallen firefighter.

****

The last members of the nine person team that will be investigating the fatalities of the 19 firefighters on the Yarnell Hill fire arrived Tuesday and received an inbriefing in Phoenix from the Arizona State Forester. One of their main objectives will be to explore lessons learned and how to prevent a similar tragedy in the future.

Described as an “independent investigation” in a news release, it will be led by Florida State Forester Jim Karels. Mike Dudley, Acting Director of Cooperative Forestry for the USDA Forest Service, will be the secondary team lead. Other entities participating in the investigation include the U.S. Forest Service’s Missoula Technology and Development Center, the Missoula Fire Department, the Bureau of Land Management, and the Arizona Division of Occupational Safety and Health. Some of the team members are technical specialists and fire behavior analysts.

The local liaisons to the nine-member Yarnell Hill Investigation Team are Arizona State Forester Scott Hunt and Prescott Fire Chief Dan Fraijo.

****

Carrie Dennett, a Fire Information Officer with the Arizona State Forestry Division, said the Arizona Dispatch Center first received a call at 4:47 p.m. June 30, that firefighters on the Yarnell Hill Fire had deployed fire shelters. The Dispatch Center was not in direct communication with firefighters on the ground at the fire. The information would typically have been relayed from the local Yarnell Hill Fire organization up through lower level dispatch offices.

Another spokesperson for the fire said the fatalities occurred between where the fire was at the time and the town. That would put the firefighters N, NW, or E of the town — between an approaching thunderstorm and the town. (UPDATE July 15, 2013: the possible but unconfirmed location is: Lat: 34.220392 Long:-112.777690 )

Radar at 5 pm MDT, June 30, 2013 The pointer is at Yarnell, Arizona.

Radar at 4 pm MST, June 30, 2013. The pointer is at Yarnell, Arizona. The thunderstorm was moving toward the southwest. Radar image from WeatherUnderground.

****

(UPDATE at 9:42 p.m. MDT, July 2, 2013)

I hate to bring this up, but the Westboro Baptist “Church” is threatening to picket the funerals of the 19 firefighters killed in the Yarnell Hill Fire. The organization is known for picketing the funerals of servicemen killed in wars, but this would be a new low, even for them. It could just be a threat to obtain some publicity in their “god hates fags” crusade, and they may not show up.

Shifting gears….

Two thoughtful, possibly controversial, articles about the fatalities are worth reading:

  • At the “Rogue Columnist” Jon Talton says he does not want “Cheap sentimentalizing and cynical religiosity from politicians who are otherwise hostile to public employees, adequate government budgets and sensible land-use policies.”
  • Cally Carswell at The Goat Blog writes about how important, or not important, it is to protect structures, and quotes a fireline medic who has a strong opinion on the subject.

****

(UPDATE at 1:50 p.m. MDT, July 2, 2013)

The Times Record has some detailed information about several members of the Granite Mountain Hotshot crew.

ABC15 has profiles of all of the 19 firefighters.

****

(UPDATE at 9:35 p.m. MDT, July 1, 2013)

The Billings Gazette has an article about one of the firefighters that died on the Yarnell Fire, Dustin Deford.  Below is an excerpt:

As soon as he turned 18, Dustin Deford volunteered for the Carter County Rural Fire Department in Ekalaka, embarking on a career that ended Sunday in an Arizona inferno.

Deford, 24, was a member of a Hotshot fire crew killed battling the Yarnell fire about 80 miles northwest of Phoenix. Eighteen other firefighters died at his side in one of the deadliest wildfires in U.S. history.

“He was one of the good ones who ever walked on this earth,” Carter County Sheriff Neil Kittelmann said Monday. “I’ve told two or three people that I thought needed to know. People reacted like he was one of their own kids.”

****

(UPDATE at 5 p.m. MDT, July 1, 2013)

Prescott Fire Department officials on Monday afternoon released the names of the 19 firefighters who were killed in the Yarnell Fire in Arizona.

Andrew Ashcraft, 29; Kevin Woyjeck, 21; Anthony Rose, 23; Eric Marsh, 43; Christopher MacKenzie, 30; Robert Caldwell, 23; Clayton Whitted, 28; Scott Norris, 28; Dustin Deford, 24; Sean Misner, 26; Garret Zuppiger, 27; Travis Carter, 31; Grant McKee, 21; Travis Turbyfill, 27; Jesse Steed, 36; Wade Parker, 22; Joe Thurston, 32; William Warneke, 25; John Percin, 24

****

(UPDATE at 1 p.m. MDT, July 1, 2013)

The Republic reported that a caravan of white vans, each carrying fallen firefighters from the Yarnell Hill Fire, was making its way down Arizona highways Monday to the Maricopa County Medical Examiner’s Office where autopsies will be performed.

Prescott Fire Chief Dan Fraijo told reporters Monday morning that the sole survivor, still unnamed, avoided death because he had been assigned to run an errand at the time of the entrapment, moving equipment from one place to another on the fire. That firefighter was hospitalized, but there were no updates on his condition Monday.

Prescott Fire Chief Dan Fraijo now says all 19 were from the Prescott-based Granite Mountain Hotshots. Authorities earlier said one of the men wasn’t a crew member.

THIS is a link to an animation of satellite photos of the Yarnell Fire area around the time of the entrapment on the fire. It was provided by Dan Lindsey, NOAA, Regional and Mesoscale Meteorology Branch, in Fort Collins, Colorado Research Scientist. The approximate location of the fire is at the red “X“.

The photos show a large thunderstorm cell building northwest of the fire and then moving into and across the fire. Storms like this frequently produce very strong outflow winds that can have a very significant effect on a fire. As we pointed out in the article about the fire, there was a 180-degree shift in the direction of the wind. From 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. local time at the Stanton RAWS weather station four miles south of the fire, the wind was from the south-southwest or southwest, but at 5 p.m. it began blowing from the north-northeast at 22 to 26 mph gusting up to 43 mph. This may have pushed the fire into the town. And if any firefighters were on the south or west side of the fire it could have suddenly driven the fire at them at a very rapid rate of spread.

The Associated Press reports that wind may have played a part in the tragedy:

The wildfire area experienced a sudden increase and shift in wind around the time of the tragedy, said Brian Klimowski, meteorologist in charge of the National Weather Service’s Flagstaff office. 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.

Below are portions of a statement released by President Obama on Monday:

…They were heroes — highly-skilled professionals who, like so many across our country do every day, selflessly put themselves in harm’s way to protect the lives and property of fellow citizens they would never meet. … But today, Michelle and I join all Americans in sending our thoughts and prayers to the families of these brave firefighters and all whose lives have been upended by this terrible tragedy.

****

STATEMENT FROM THE NATIONAL FALLEN FIREFIGHTERS FOUNDATION

The Arizona Line of Duty Death Response Team, one of NFFF’s Local Assistance State Teams and part of the Arizona Fire Chiefs Association, was activated last night to provide support.

The families, friends and colleagues of the 19 firefighters who died in Arizona Sunday night will need immediate help and assistance for years to come. This is the mission of the NFFF. The NFFF, in cooperation with local support efforts in Arizona, has set up a national fund to accept monetary donations. 100% of the funds go to help the survivors and coworkers of the lost FF’s.

To Help the Survivors of the Fallen Firefighters from Arizona, donate to the Yarnell Hill Fallen Firefighters Fund. Send checks to:

National Fallen Firefighters Foundation, c/o Yarnell Hill Fallen Firefighters Fund, P.O. Drawer 498. Emmitsburg, MD 21727, Or Online: www.regonline.com/yarnellhill

****

You can also donate to the Wildland Firefighter Foundation, an organization that does wonderful work helping wildland firefighters and their families in situations like this.

****

(UPDATED at 8:40 a.m. MDT, July 1, 2013)

The Arizona Republic reports that 18 of the 19 firefighters killed Sunday on the Yarnell Fire near Yarnell, Arizona were members of the Granite Mountain Hotshot crew. It is not yet known which crew the 19th firefighter belonged to. One member of the crew survived because he or she was in a different location at the time of the entrapment.

The report also said some but not all of the crew members were found inside their fire shelters, which are collapsible, aluminum, pup tent style devices which firefighters carry and practice deploying and entering within 20 seconds. They can reflect radiant heat and prevent the firefighter from having to breathe superheated air which can reach over 1,000 degrees F.

****

(Originally published at 9:32 p.m. MDT, June 30, 2013, Updated at 10:18 p.m. MDT, June 30, 2013 to revise the number of fatalities)

Granite Mountain Hot ShotsMany media outlets have been reporting that there have been multiple firefighter fatalities on the Yarnell Fire in Arizona, which is north of Wickenburg and southwest of Prescott. The Associated Press is quoting state forestry spokesman Art Morrison who said 19 firefighters were killed Sunday afternoon when they were entrapped while working on the fire. CNN quotes Wade Ward of the Prescott Fire Department with similar information.

Most of the firefighters were members of the Granite Mountain Interagency Hotshot Crew, the first and perhaps the only Hotshot crew to be organized by a city, in this case, Prescott, Arizona. They began as a fuels mitigation crew in 2002 and gained Hotshot status in 2008 while they were on a firefighting trip in California.

This is the worst multiple wildland firefighter fatality incident in the last 80 years, since 1933, and is the third worst in the recorded history of wildland firefighting.

The early reports late on Sunday afternoon were that a 20-person crew was unaccounted for. Then, three medical helicopters reportedly were dispatched to Yarnell, but found they could not land due to smoke and landed elsewhere. There was a report that one firefighter from the crew was found alive.

The CEO of Wickenburg Community Hospital stated, according to Arizona News Net, that they were expecting 8 to 10 injured people, presumably firefighters, but an hour later at 7:21 MST none had arrived at the hospital, reported Marie Saavedra of 3TV in Phoenix.

We will update this article as more confirmed information emerges.

Our sincere condolences go out to the firefighters’ families and co-workers.

If you are wondering how you can help the families of the firefighters, consider making a donation to the Wildland Firefighter Foundation, an organization that does wonderful work helping wildland firefighters and their families in situations like this.

We have more information about the Yarnell Fire.

Share
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , by Bill Gabbert. Bookmark the permalink.

About Bill Gabbert

Wildland fire has been a major part of Bill Gabbert’s life for several decades. After growing up in the south, he migrated to southern California where he lived for 20 years, working as a wildland firefighter. Later he took his affinity for firefighting to Indiana and eventually the Black Hills of South Dakota where he was the Fire Management Officer for a group of seven national parks. Today he is the creator and owner of WildfireToday.com and Sagacity Wildfire Services and serves as an expert witness in wildland fire. If you are interested in wildland fire, welcome… grab a cup of coffee and put your feet up. Google+

19 thoughts on “Multiple firefighter fatalities on the Yarnell Fire in Arizona

  1. May they Rest In Peace. Praying for their families, friends and colleagues, Such a huge tragedy.

  2. This is always really bad news when we lose one . My heart breaks I will keep the family and friends in my prayers. I am a survivor of the Butte fire (1985 Salmon Challis Forest) Please send support to the Wildland Fighter Foundiation so that they can support these families.
    http://www.wffoundation.org/

  3. Prayers go out to the firefighters that were fighting this fire. I’m a wife of a firefighter I pray that the women and men that have families and children get comfort, peace and guidance. I pray that they are blessed with all the best that life has to offer.((((((((((((((((((((HUGS)))))))))))))))))) to those that need it

  4. I’m sorry for this great loss of your comrades. This is very sad news for anyone who loves firefighters. May the families of these men and women be surrounded with love and support.

    Thank you fire fighters for putting yourselves in harms way to help protect communities from wild fires. Please keep yourselves and each other safe out there. There is not a house or barn, nor a beautiful hillside full of trees that is more important than one of your precious lives.

  5. So very sorry for the loss of these firefighters that put their lives on the lines for people that they have never known, Prayers to all of their families & friends. God Bless you all. Keeping you in my thoughts & prayers. My heart is breaking for these families.

  6. This tragedy is heart breaking and a blow to the entire wildland firefighting community. My sincere condolences to the families, friends, and co-workers of those lost.

    The L.A. Times article tonight with commentary interlaced with “back story”… laced with political agenda and talking points that in no such way related to this tragedy… that article made me ill knowing about the full agenda of those trolls.

    L.A. Times and Mr. Ingalsbee… just the facts and none of your spin, talking points, or focus words…. Families, firefighters, and communities are grieving… no need for your senseless and utter BS.

    IMHO

    • Excuse my ignorance, but what was so bad about Ingalsbee’s remarks. Unless I missed something he was talking about politicos demanding unsafe action due to their importance. Yes, it was not about the current tragedy, however, it was an opportunity to speak out about the politicizing of wildland fires for one politicians personal advantage. If safety is the endgoal of Ingalsbee’s agenda, he saw it as an opportunity, while there was a tiny of attention.

      But then, I don’t know the whole story there, and may be entirely mistaken.

      • There is a time and place to speak and/or debate issues. On the day of a tragedy, completely sickening to see. Mr Ingalsbee and the Times should be ashamed a themselves.

        ’nuff said.

        Respect the families and the firefighters who are actually there on the pointy end of the stick when things go gunnysack.

        I will leave my comments to that only.

        DUTY… RESPECT.. INTEGRITY

        • I worked line jobs for twenty years, including four years as squad leader, then assistant foreman on interagency hotshot crews. I hope that is enough time at “the pointy end of the stick” for you. What Tim Ingalsbee said was right on the money. Ingalsbee has the courage to speak up. Deal with it.

    • Talk about spin, are we supposed to not notice the wood frame houses getting built out in the puckerbrush? Are we supposed to ignore the decline in crew availability? Are we supposed to not notice the increase in the length and severity of fire season? Deal with it, its ALL political.

  7. My prayers and thoughts go out to their familes. My son is a wildland firefighter in Nevada and this hits home for me.

  8. My sympathies go out to all their families and friends. Firefighters have been risking their lives for weeks to save my home in South fork. The work that the hot shot teams do is grueling and extremely dangerous. The dedication, strength, endurance, and selflessness displayed by them is unmatched.

    My prayers go to their families for comfort and strength. And my thanks go to the families also for allowing us to share in the devotion of their spouses.

  9. Such a tremendous tragedy. They are truly heroes.prayers go out to their loved ones.

  10. judy & jerry carr send their symphathy, prayers, and may god and the angels may god & the angels protect the serviors that lived through this terrible traduary. I am going to church at st. jermine church and light a candle for the 19 fire fighters that were killed in the fire & for all the people and people in the yarnell hospitails. pray for the dedicated doctors and nurses who are taking care of the people that was hurt in the fire. for all
    the people who lost their homes due to the fire. I hope the catholic church is still standing. we use to live in a modular home then we moved back to sun city, az. I use to play the organ in church every sunday.really enjoyed playing for the congeration and the priest that came from sun city west, az, I remember father bull he told 3 jokes before the mass started. we lived in peoples valley and I played the key board and shelly played the piano for the baptist church. I played the organ for the catholic church on Saturday, and I played shelly with shelly for the Baptist. the Baptist church closed because they couldn’t find a pastor for the Baptist church in yarnell.
    the people, priests were all nice people. may god & the angels be at your side guiding all of the people
    people that are helping the people. may god and the angels always be with you. I said the rosary all night knowing something was happening. we just came through yarnell two days before the awful fire in yarnell. on the way up from sun city we saw where the fire had burnt some property.
    may god & the angels always be with you & protect all of those people who survised the awful fire in yarnell, Arizona. god bless each and eve every one of you.
    sincerely,
    judy & jerry carr
    5241 n Hondo dr,
    Prescott valley, valley, arrizona

    p.s. I will go to mass and say a rosary for the 19 fire fighers that were killed in the yarnell fire. I will light a candle for the 19 fighters and people that survived the yarnell fire. god bless every one of you. I will say the
    rosary tape for all of you constanley..

Comments are closed.