The largest remaining question about the Yarnell Hill Fire that killed 19 members of the Granite Mountain Hotshot crew in 2013 south of Prescott, Arizona, is why the crew left the safety of a previously burned area and hiked through unburned brush where they were overrun by the fire. Nothing in the two official reports shed any light on this important question.
An article in the April 3 edition of the Arizona Republic includes information that was previously unknown to the public. The newspaper reports that the lone survivor from the Granite Mountain Hotshots, Brendan McDonough who was serving as a lookout away from the crew during the tragedy, overheard a radio conversation between the Division Supervisor, Eric Marsh, and Jesse Steed who was temporarily serving as the Hotshots’ crew boss. Supposedly Mr. Marsh who normally was the Crew Boss or Superintendent of the crew, told Mr. Steed to have the crew leave the safety zone and to join him at a ranch.
Below is an excerpt from the article:
While moving vehicles with the Blue Ridge crew, McDonough allegedly overheard radio traffic between Marsh and Steed, who was with 17 crew members atop a ridge that had burned days earlier.
In the radio call, Marsh told Steed to leave the “black,” which was safe, and join him at the ranch. Steed protested, saying such a move would be dangerous. The radio exchange turned into a dispute.
“My understanding of the argument between Eric Marsh and Jesse Steed … was that Steed did not want to go down,” Paladini said.
According to Paladini’s account, Steed objected until Marsh gave him a direct order to descend.
As the back-and-forth conversation continued, it became apparent that Steed, a U.S. Marine veteran, consented to the command to relocate the team. But he told Marsh he thought it was a bad idea.
As the article goes on to explain, there is a dispute over the accuracy of the report.