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.
State Forestry hand crews staged in Yarnell. The Single Engine Air Tanker base in Wickenburg 18 miles from the fire was activated and SEATS worked the fire. A spot weather forecast called for dry (11% relative humidity), hot (105 degrees) light winds (6-7 m.p.h.), and a slight chance of thunderstorms with very little chance of moisture.
By 5:30 p.m. there were 13 firefighters working on the fire and six acres had burned. The I.C. requested a heavy helitanker and a fixed wing heavy air tanker to assist with a slopover. A helitanker was in Prescott, but was unable to respond due to a thunderstorm and high winds in Prescott. The nearest available heavy air tanker was in Albuquerque, but was also unable to respond due to weather conditions. Later, a DC-10 very large airtanker (VLAT) was in Albuquerque and available, but was not ordered due to Air Attack’s concern about effectiveness in steep terrain and inability to deliver retardant before cut-off time, due to darkness.
At 7:38 p.m. the size was estimated at 100 acres and the fire was slowly moving north. It was one mile from structures in Peeples Valley and 2.5 miles from Yarnell.
On Saturday SEATs delivered 15 loads for a total of 7,430 gallons of retardant on Saturday — no larger air tankers were used.
For the next day, Sunday, the Incident Commander ordered 14 engines, 3 hot shot crews, 2 Type 2 crews, 2 dozers, 3 heavy air tankers, 4 SEATs, 2 heavy helicopters, 2 medium helicopters, 2 light helicopters, and a lead plane. The fire was competing with other fires for resources. The IC also ordered part of a Type 2 Incident Management Team, a “short team”, for Sunday.
Sunday, June 30, 2013
Individual operational overhead resources from the Type 2 IMTeam began arriving on scene as early as 6:00 a.m. and immediately began working with the Type 4 IC.
The Granite Mountain Hotshots arrived at approximately 8:00 a.m. and began work after an operational, weather and safety briefing.
The Southwest Coordination Center (SWCC) advised the Arizona Dispatch Center that competition existed from other fires for air tankers. The SWCC launched two heavy air tankers and suggested the State could order a very large airtanker (VLAT). One VLAT was ordered at 8:54 a.m.
The Blue Ridge Hotshots arrived at approximately 9:00 a.m., received a briefing and began working the fire, which was active on the northeast side and moving toward structures in Peeples Valley.
Two SEATs began working the fire at approximately 9:00 a.m., making multiple retardant drops on the fire. Two additional SEATs were ordered from Tucson and Show Low and worked the fire later in the day. Two heavy helicopters, two medium helicopters, and two light helicopters were ordered and confirmed. The heavy helicopter came from Show Low and arrived over the fire late in the afternoon.
At 9:40 a.m. two heavy air tankers ordered for the Yarnell Hill Fire were diverted to the Dean Peak Fire near Kingman by the SWCC.
[Note from Bill: The report does not mention it, but at 9:45 a.m. another spot weather forecast was issued. According to the information at the top of the forecast, it was requested at 9:39 a.m. MST and produced six minutes later, a remarkably short turnaround. It predicted 100 to 103 degrees, relative humidity of 11 to 15 percent, and east winds around 5 mph becoming southwest with gusts up to 20 mph in the afternoon. It also mentioned isolated thunderstorm activity which “will produce lightning and strong and gusty winds but little or no measurable precipitation”. It is odd that the report quoted from spot forecasts on Friday and Saturday, but did not mention the one on the day of the tragedy.]
Command of the fire transferred from the Type 4 Incident Commander to the short Type 2 IMTeam at 10:21 a.m.
At 11:38 a.m. the IC ordered the second VLAT, another DC-10. Two more heavy air tankers were ordered at 12:24 p.m. but only one was dispatched — the order for the other was unable to be filled (UTF).
By noon fire activity had increased substantially and about 1,000 acres had burned.
SWCC diverted two heavy airtankers back to the Yarnell Hill Fire from the Dean Peak Fire at approximately 12:30 p.m. Both air tankers continued to work the Yarnell Hill Fire and made multiple retardant drops each.
At 2:02 p.m. the Fire Behavior Analyst (FBAN) at the Yarnell Hill Fire received a weather alert from the National Weather Service (NWS) notifying them of the chance of thunderstorm activity on the fire’s east side with downdrafts of 30+ m.p.h. This information was relayed to the Operations Section Chief by radio and then to the Division Supervisors. Receipt of the information was confirmed by the Division Supervisors.
The Arizona Dispatch Center ordered a Southwest Area Type 1 Interagency Incident Management Team at 2:13 p.m.
At 3:26 p.m. the FBAN received another weather alert from the NWS about outflow winds from a thunderstorm moving from the northeast to the southwest with very high winds of 40 to 50+ m.p.h. The information was passed on to the Operations Section Chief and to each Division Supervisor by radio. Receipt of the information was confirmed by the Division Supervisors.
After 4 p.m. the fire’s intensity and rate of spread increased and the direction of spread reversed, now moving rapidly toward the southeast. Air Attack ordered six additional heavy airtankers at 4:03 p.m. The SWCC was unable to fill five of these air tanker requests. A request for one heavy airtanker was filled out of Southern California (South Ops). Extensive thunderstorm activity grounded air tankers and helicopters around Prescott.
At 4:10 p.m. mandatory evacuations were ordered for Yarnell and Glen Ilah.
At 4:47 p.m. the IC and the Arizona Dispatch Center received notice from Air Attack that shelters had been deployed. The number and exact location was not known. There were reports of heavy smoke and extreme fire behavior. The DPS helicopter and other ground units were standing by for rescue and medical assistance. Multiple structures burned in Yarnell.
At 6:35 p.m. a DPS EMT on the ground confirmed there had been 19 fatalities.
The fire jumped Highway 89 at 6:39 p.m.
Air tanker operations finished for the day at 7:48 p.m. A total of 47 retardant drops were made by SEATs for 31,300 gallons. Heavy air tankers made 16 drops of 28,875 gallons, and the two VLATs made five drops for 55,522 gallons. A total of 115,697 gallons of retardant were delivered on the fire that day.
Monday, July 1, 2013
There was very little fire growth on Monday and no additional structures burned. The Type 1 IMTeam assumed command at 6 p.m. There were 448 personnel assigned.
VLATs made two retardant drops and two were made by heavy air tankers. SEATS made 47 drops. A total of 43,665 gallons of retardant were delivered Monday.