Prescott Division Chief provides more information about fatalities at Yarnell Hill Fire

Yarnell Hill Fire Fatality Site, Photo by Joy Collura, labels by Wildfire Today
Fatality site photo, looking east. Photo by Joy Collura (used with permission), labels by Wildfire Today

Prescott Fire Department Division Chief Darrell Willis on Tuesday escorted members of the media to the site on the Yarnell Hill fire where 19 members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots were killed June 30. John Dougherty, an investigative reporter who has written for the New York Times, was there and recorded these videos of Chief Willis’ briefing. They are embedded here with his permission. John also wrote an article about his visit to the site.

The first video is the Chief providing his understanding of what happened, and in the second he takes questions from the reporters.

In the photo below of the entrapment site, which is looking toward the west, the road was punched in by a dozer after the incident to facilitate the removal of the bodies, which were at the end of the road. The photo was taken by Wade Ward of the Prescott FD, and is used here with permission.
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Report issued about resources deployed on Yarnell Hill Fire

The Arizona State Forestry Division has issued a report that summarizes information about some of the major events and the firefighting resources that were deployed for the Yarnell Hill Fire on which 19 members of the Granite Mountain Hotshot crew were killed.

A very quick summary:  according to the report, 24 hours after the Yarnell Hill Fire was reported, it had burned only 6 acres — 23 hours after that 19 firefighters were dead. It seems too unlikely to believe.

Below are some highlights of the report, but you can read the entire report HERE.

Friday, June 28, 2013

The fire, caused by lightning, was reported at 5:40 p.m. The Yarnell Volunteer Fire Department responded, but they were not sure they could access it. The fire was not staffed at night for safety and lack of access reasons. The last reported size that day was one acre. Air Attack flew over the fire but there was no mention of any helicopters or air tankers being used.  There were multiple lightning-caused fires in that part of the state.

A spot weather forecast from the National Weather Service predicted for Saturday, hot (102-104 degrees), dry (10-11% relative humidity), winds light (W-SW 6-10 gusts to 14 m.p.h.), very little relative humidity recovery at night, and the possibility of high based showers or thunderstorms with a slight chance of moisture. If thunderstorms developed, the fire area could experience gusty winds.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Six firefighters were flown in to the fire and began work. They estimated the fire had burned two to four acres.
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Video of the memorial service for the 19 Granite Mountain Hotshots

If you did not get a chance to see it live, or would just like to see it again, below is a video recording of the two and a half hour June 9 memorial service for the 19 members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots who were killed June 30. The video is made available by Azfamily.com.

Man arrested for impersonating a firefighter at hotshot’s funeral

James Patrick Brown, 29
James Patrick Brown

At the funeral procession in Marana, Arizona for 25-year-old William Warneke, one of the 19 firefighters who died June 30 while fighting the Yarnell Hill Fire, James Patrick Brown, 29, was arrested for impersonating a firefighter. Here are the details as reported by KGUN9-TV:

It was a somber procession that led mourners, including hundreds of firefighters, to the Marana Mortuary. And it was here that an assistant fire chief for the city of Tucson noticed someone darting in and out of the procession, taking pictures. What’s more, he was wearing a tucson fire t-shirt and hat.

When approached, our ‘photographer’ said he was a Tucson firefighter, for the city’s fleet services division. Little did he know, he was talking to the top dog in that division. In other words, he was asked to try again. 49 year-old James Brown’s story continued to crumble, when police searched his pockets.

“We found him in possession of two different fire department badges,” said Alvarez.

They also found brown had a lengthy rap sheet, complete with an outstanding felony warrant from Maricopa County for theft. Police arrested our fake firefighter and charged him with impersonating a public servant.

 

Viewpoint established for Yarnell Hill Fire fatality site

Yarnell Hill fatality site
A flagpole marks the Yarnell Hill fatality site — as seen from the new Granite Mountain Hotshots Overlook on Hwy 89 in Yarnell, AZ. The scene appears to have been photographed with a long telephoto lens, so the apparent distance between the flagpole and the structure is very deceiving. (click to enlarge)

A viewpoint has been established near highway 89 in Arizona from which the Yarnell Hill Fire fatality site can be seen. The Granite Mountain Hotshots were entrapped by the fire, and 19 firefighters on the 20-person crew were killed June 30, 2013.

More info from the AP:

The 15-mile stretch of Arizona highway that runs past where a wildfire killed 19 Prescott firefighters has reopened, and the entrapment site near Yarnell is visible from a new public overlook.

Drivers who stop at the site alongside Highway 89 near Yarnell will be able to see a flagpole in the distance that marks the site where the Granite Mountain Hotshots were trapped by a fire on June 30.

InciWeb has some additional information.

Below is a photo of the entrapment site that we published July 6.

Yarnell Hill Fire fatality site, Arizona, 2013. Prescott FD photo by Wade Ward.
The entrapment site on the Yarnell Hill Fire. The dozer line was punched in after the incident to facilitate the removal of the bodies, which were at the end of the line. The photo was taken by Wade Ward of the Prescott FD, and is used here with permission. (click to enlarge)

Behind the scenes — preparations for the Granite Mountain 19’s memorial service

Some members of the IMTeam for planning the memorial services
Some members of the IMTeam for planning the memorial services confer in the hallway of the Incident Command Post Monday

Today I was able to spend some time with the Incident Management Team that is putting together the thousands of details necessary for organizing the events honoring the 19 members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots that were killed while fighting the Yarnell Hill Fire June 30. The Hotshot crew was part of the city of Prescott Fire Department and early on, the department smartly requested that an incident management team take the lead in putting the plans together. They are working separately from the team managing the fire itself, the Yarnell Hill Fire.

The deaths and the honoring of the 19 firefighters is garnering a great deal of interest. Mostly because of, naturally, the large number of firefighters that died. And everybody likes firefighters. But because they were part of a municipal fire department on a wildland fire, it draws not only the wildland fire community, which would have been a huge response alone, but many city fire departments and organizations around the country are wanting to help any way they can.

The planning organization began with the National Incident Management Organization’s Atlanta NIMO team, with Incident Commander Mike Quesinberry who has the delegation of authority for the incident. Added as co-Incident Commander was Pruett Small who is the Deputy Incident Commander on one of the Southwest Area’s Type 1 Incident Management Teams. Many other members of the Southwest team as well as several other IMTeams contributed personnel, with a total of approximately 200 people being assigned directly to the IMTeam.

There are quite a few other personnel helping on a less formal basis that are not being tracked as closely as normally occurs on a more traditional fire, planned event, or all-hazard incident. For example I was told that approximately 2,000 firefighters from fire departments around the country are serving as honor guards at the procession from Phoenix to Prescott, the memorial service, and the 19 individual firefighter funerals.

At the risk of leaving out some key players, an example of some of the organizations involved include the International Association of Fire Fighters which is helping out to a VERY significant degree, the New York City FD which has had a close working relationship with the Southwest Area Type 1 IMTeams since they worked together at 9/11, and Los Angeles County FD which is providing a critical incident stress management team (I probably got their title wrong).

The El Dorado Hotshots help set up the stage
On Monday the El Dorado Hotshots help set up the stage and other equipment for the memorial service.

And then there is the local sound system specialist who is providing at no cost his services and all of the sound equipment that will be used at the memorial service in the Tim’s Toyota Center Tuesday. Engineering the sound and providing the equipment is a huge deal, takes a lot of expertise, and is always very expensive… when you have to pay for it. He said he is doing it for no pay because the Granite Mountain Hotshots saved his home recently when it was threatened by a fire.

Adding to those individuals is the miscellaneous assistance that is being provided to the Prescott Fire Department from other departments as far away as Texas, for example, to staff engines this week so that the Prescott firefighters can take care of the 19 members they just lost. This morning I pulled over while an engine from the Yuma FD was responding code 3 to an incident in Prescott.

The facility for the memorial service Tuesday, Tim’s Toyota Center, has room for 6,000 people inside, and all of those seats have been committed. Everyone who does not have an assigned seat already will be able to view the service outside on a huge jumbo screen. According to the IMTeam, be aware that shading or seating will not be provided. The weather is calling for temperatures in the mid 90’s and humidity around 13%. Water stations will be available. Come prepared to stand or bring lawn chairs but plan for the heat. The service will also be streamed live online.

Other photos from the site of the memorial service and the Incident Command Post that were taken Monday are below.
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