You HAVE to watch this interview with Juliann Ashcraft, an amazing lady, who became a widow Sunday when her 29-year old husband, Andy Ashcraft, died on the Yarnell Hill Fire along with 18 other members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots. Now a single mother of four children all under the age of six, she describes her last conversations and text messages with him just hours before he passed away.
To see it full-screen, after the 15-second ad plays click on “Options” then “Fullscreen”.
The only member of the Granite Mountain Hotshot crew to survive the Yarnell Hill Fire has been identified as 21-year old Brendan McDonough. Contrary to earlier reports that he had been assigned to move equipment when the other 19 members of the crew became entrapped and were killed, Mr. McDonough was serving as a lookout.
The duties of a lookout on a wildland fire are to observe the fire and the weather and to notify the crew about changes that could jeopardize their safety. Typically they find a high vantage point from which they can see both the fire and the location of the other firefighters.
In a briefing Tuesday, Prescott Fire Department Public Information Officer Wade Ward said Brendan, who is in his third season with the crew, did “exactly what he was supposed to do”. When he arrived at the lookout point he identified a trigger point for himself and decided that when the fire reached that location he would have to leave for his own safety. Later in the day when the fire reached that trigger point, he radioed the crew Superintendent, telling him that the weather was changing rapidly and the direction of spread of the fire had changed because the wind direction had changed. Brendan told him that he had to leave his lookout location and that if the crew needed anything to contact him. That was his last communication with the crew, after which he walked out and met the Blue Ridge Hot Shots. He looked back and saw that the point where he had been had already burned over. He then got in the Blue Ridge Hotshots’ vehicle and was taken to a safety zone. Brendan was not injured and did not have to deploy his fire shelter.
“The wind changed,” said Prescott Fire Battalion Chief Ralph Lucas, explaining the movement of the fire. “We had a thunderstorm that was above. They have a tendency to push winds around, just because of the dynamics of nature, and that may have been what occurred during that time period, that brought fire up toward his trigger point, indicating that it was time for him to leave his lookout point.”
Mr. Ward implored the audience to protect Brendan’s privacy and to leave him alone, which precipitated applause from the crowd. Then he said, “Give him some time. And when I mean time, it’s going to take weeks, if not longer”.
You may or may not agree with her political beliefs, but Rachel Maddow on Monday narrated an excellent video tribute to Hotshot crews, and especially the Granite Mountain Hotshots who died in the Yarnell Hill Fire on Monday. It also has some historical photos of the Oak Grove Hot Shots in southern California.
To see it full-screen, after the 15-second ad plays click on “Options” then “Fullscreen”.
(This article was updated numerous times over a couple of weeks, beginning June 30, 2017. To read it in chronological order, scroll to the bottom. The first entry was posted at 9:32 p.m. MDT, June 30, 2013)
(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.
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.
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.
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 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 )
(This article was updated numerous times over six days, beginning June 30, 2017. To read it in chronological order, scroll to the bottom. The first entry was posted at 6:15 p.m. MDT, June 30, 2013.)
(UPDATE at 9:35 a.m. MDT, June 5, 2013)
Firefighters are making good progress on the Yarnell Hill Fire. Two maps released yesterday show the exact perimeter in detail and where fireline had been constructed when the maps were made on July 3. Today the IMTeam is calling the fire 80 percent contained. One of the maps says it has burned 8,165 acres, which is a revision from the 8,400 figure that has been used for several days and is still shown on InciWeb.
Evacuation orders were lifted for residents of Peeples Valley at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, July 4. Only residents with valid identification will be allowed access into the community.
Residents needing information regarding the status of their properties can contact the Yavapai County Sheriffs Office at 928-427-6475.
State Highway 89 remains closed between Date Creek Road south of Yarnell to mile marker 283 north of Peeples Valley.
There are 596 personnel assigned to the fire, including eight crews, 44 engines, and 9 helicopters.
The MODIS satellite found no concentrations of heat when it overflew the fire at 12:25 p.m. Wednesday. It can detect heat sources larger than 30 meters across.
Wednesday evening the Incident Management Team said the fire is 45 percent contained. This is a jump from the 8 percent number they were using yesterday. (But, refer to our explanation below about containment percentages.) The number of acres has not changed for a couple of days, and remains at 8,400.
The IMTeam had not released a map of the fire since July 1, until they released the one above today. HERE is a link to a larger version of the map.
(UPDATE at 7:50 a.m. MDT, July 3, 2013)
The Yarnell Hill Fire spread very little Tuesday and the Incident Management Team kept the reported acreage the same, at 8,400. The MODIS satellite detected no concentrations of heat larger than 30 meters across when it overflew the fire at 12:20 a.m. Wednesday. The IMTeam is estimating that 50 primary structures have burned, but this number may still be revised after assessments are complete. Approximately $1.75 million has been spent on the fire so far.
The Team selected 8 percent as the containment percentage they are distributing to the public. Until late yesterday they said there was no containment, meaning no fire line had been constructed and held. Until a few years ago, the containment percentage was an actual statistic, the amount of fire line completed and held compared to the fire line that still needed to be built, but recently it has become politicized and meaningless. There may still be some IMTeams that accurately report containment, and hopefully the IMTeam managing this fire is one of them. But since the public has no way of knowing, there is no point in getting excited about a containment percentage figure. More information about describing a fire as contained, controlled, or out is at the National Wildfire Coordinating Group’s web site.
Below is an excerpt from an update issued by the IMTeam Tuesday night at 10 p.m.:
Today, firefighters made good progress on the northeast corner and the fire perimeter near Yarnell. Two hot shot crews scouted the western flank until the threat of thunderstorms caused them to move to safer areas. Creeping and smoldering continued around the structures, primarily in the afternoon, and some areas around structures are still holding enough heat to be a concern. A plan is being developed to restore utilities and infrastructure to the affected communities. Contingency lines were scouted in case the fire becomes active again. Tonight, crews will be patrolling in the developed areas and working on flareups and visible heat.
(UPDATE at 3:02 p.m. MDT, July 2, 2013)
During the 11:27 a.m. overflight today, the MODIS satellite did not detect any large concentrations of heat larger than 30 meters square on the Yarnell Hill Fire, but there could still be a lot of work left for firefighters, including constructing fireline. With so much uncompleted line, there is still the possibility for the fire to continue to spread.
Air tankers and firefighters worked the north perimeter of the fire where it continued to spread, and 5 helicopters assigned to the fire dropped water on hot spots in support of the firefighters. Efforts continued to secure the east flank to protect other homes at risk.
The Incident Management Team reported that 50 primary structures have burned in the fire. As of 9:30 p.m. on Monday they said it had blackened about 8,400 acres, was zero percent contained, and was being fought by about 500 personnel.
Clay Templin’s Type 1 Incident Management Team assumed command of the fire at 6 p.m. Monday.
Fire officials will hold Community Meetings on July 2: 11 a.m. at Wickenburg High School and 3:30 p.m. at the Prescott High School.
(UPDATE at 7:30 p.m. MDT, July 1, 2013)
The Incident Management Team reports that an estimated 200 homes and other structures burned Sunday in Yarnell. The Yarnell Fire Department will continue to assess the damage Monday.
The New York City Fire Department is sending five members of their Incident Management Team to assist in managing the Yarnell Fire.
(UPDATE at 1:46 p.m. MDT, July 1, 2013)
The maps of the Yarnell Fire above show heat, represented by the square icons, detected by a satellite at 3:10 a.m. MDT, July 1, 2013. The red squares were the most recently detected. All of the icons can be as much as a mile in error.
The Incident Management Team reports the fire has burned 8,374 acres and has zero containment. They also officially confirmed on Monday morning the fatalities that occurred on Sunday:
A fire crew had to deploy their fire shelters late yesterday afternoon after strong winds pushed the fire to their position and 19 firefighters died in the line of duty.
Mike Reichling of the Arizona Forestry Division said the early report of about half the structures in Yarnell being destroyed in the fire is an exaggeration. He said the Yavapai fire chief was assessing the destruction. Continue reading “Arizona: Yarnell Hill Fire”