Interview with author of book about Yarnell Hill Fire

This video is an interview with Kyle Dickman, the author of On The Burning Edge, a recently released book about the 2013 Yarnell Hill Fire south of Prescott, Arizona and the 19 firefighters who died there.

At one point the interviewer asks Mr. Dickman who to blame for the fatalities. After he gives her a name, she then throws Mr. Dickman under the bus, saying “It’s not about finger pointing…”

The truth is, until people who were there are willing and able to talk about what they saw and heard that day, we may not know why the crew left the safety of the black, a previously burned area, and walked through unburned brush where they were overrun by the fire.

Typos, let us know HERE, and specify which article. Please read the commenting rules before you post a comment.

Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.

44 thoughts on “Interview with author of book about Yarnell Hill Fire”

  1. The future actions and decision making on all large wildland fire are a result of a failed initial attack, some can not be helped but a lot can. The Yarnell fire is no exception. This fire if suppressed on the night of June 28th we would not be “pointing fingers” as who to blame. The type 4 IC had the first and final say to take the action necessary to “put it out” having the offensive ability to suppress the fire during low intensity and hardly any spread, and he did not, even being aware of extreme fire weather conditions predicted for the next day. But he waited 18 hours at 11am the next day to take the first ground suppression action by 10 man inmate crew, nobody even showing up in the staging area until 9am including the IC. Of course by this time the fire is now well into the first active burning period and a inexperienced 10 man crew was not going to get it done. During my 30 years in SoCal with the FS I never second guessed the action of any wildland fire not to get up and run leaving me on the defensive. You put it out fast, aggressively, quickly and properly making it a cost effective operation compared to tying up resources for weeks, spending millions and destroying thousands of acres of natural resources and pubic life and property and of course the tragic result on the the Yarnell fire. By the way there was still over 3 hours of daylight and twilight to safely get to the fire and work it thru the evening being the 28th was only 6 days beyond the longest day of the year.

  2. I read some discussion about a lack of proof that the Granite Mountain Crew knew there were thunderstorms moving in. If this could even be possible it requires an immediate need fix department wide. Somewhere I learned that the most influential factor in a wild land fire is weather. I would think it important to insure adequate weather communication agency wide. When the t-storms died down the night before was there a “don’t fight at night” policy or was the Fire Weather Forecast for the next day considered in the decision of whether or not to staff the fire at night.

    One of the lessons learned from the Oakland Firestorm of 1991 was the necessity of city fire department with WUI to actively monitor weather. One of the astonishing discoveries was that the Oakland Fire Department was unaware of an impending wind event that was to explode a small fire they were working. The fire was babysat overnight and was minimally staffed. They certainly could not imagine that a few short hours later there would be 25 lives and 3,000+ dwellings lost. If they had known 65mph Diablo Winds would be over their fire in a few hours, neither firefighter, nor officer, nor chief would have relaxed till the fire was cold. The Oakland Firestorm was a wake-up call to all city departments with WUI issues.

    Other departments in the region broadcasted the daily fire weather report every morning and afternoon as well as special alerts. Weather information was such a normal part of firefighting that it was hard to imagine someone not receiving fire weather forecasts.

    Emergency Responders served valiantly in the face impossible conditions. Once the fire was out the hard work began, working through the aftermath. There were new feelings: disbelief, pain, anger, determined resolve. The community and departments were determined this would never happen again.

    Families and comrades of the Yarnell Hill Fire Heros need to know that their loss was not in vein. LCES, 10, and 18 is borne on the backs of many Heros that came before Yarnell’s heros, some who gave their life on the line, and others dedicated their life to be sure that no more Heros would be left on this battlefield again.

    1. I’d be careful about assuming that the Granite Mountain Hotshots did not hear the warning over the radio about the thunderstorm moving in. But in addition to the verbal warning, they may have been able to SEE it coming.

      1. Agreed, and I had some of those same thoughts myself when I saw that discussion. It reminded me a little of the South Canyon Fire. It seems that the weather event was expected but the expected severity was not well understood.

        Though tragic events some times have more questions than answers, studying them certainly leaves the student more considerate of the complexities and dangers of wildland firefighting. I’m thankful people are willing to learn and share.

        I was burned over on a mid-slope road once. It was my very first fire. In those days, (1983), we were not issued our own shelters,(WUI department). There were some on the truck but that did us very little good. We couldn’t see a thing, we could not breath. and we were getting fried. My partner got second degree burns on his arms. If air attack had not seen our situation you would have missed this post.

        After that experience I had learned a lot: mid-slope roads are dangerous, conditions can change quickly, some times there is no time for escape, one foot in the burn is a good idea, long sleeve tee shirts are a plus, you must have your own shelter and have it on at all times, and I needed more training. Do you ever loose the need for more learning. No

  3. To Joe Hill: Yes I am him! I retired as Battalion 1212 in 1992, but stayed active as a VFF and Instructor in Shasta County. Captain Papineau was killed by a widow maker. Captain Gordon finished his career as AAGS flying out of RAAB in Fortuna, (he died of job related cancer last year).
    The rest of us are alive and doing reasonably well.
    Are you still in the fire business?

    1. Great to hear from you, John! I had heard about Pap and more recently about Russ. I can’t tell you how instrumental you all were when I was just an 18 year old rookie, trying to find my way in the fire service. I still remember when you took me on my “check ride” around the Whitethorn area so I could get clearence to drive state vehicles. If you’d like to email me, I’ll fill you in on the intervening years. I also have a photo of the 1977 Thorne crew, standing in front of 1280, that 1966 Ford Model one we had there.

  4. Wow! that’s a lot of Yarnell discussion to absorb. I detect that some posters are taking disagreement personally. At the risk of agitating some, I would like to make a few points:
    1. did any of the investigating teams or the county S.O. subpoena the cell phone records for the ops people? I suspect answers may lie there.
    2. I read Discman’s book. While it contained some errors, overall well done. In his bio he claims 5 (not 1 ) year on the Tahoe Shots.
    3. I detect a condensing tone towards Mr. Powers. As a retired professional wildland fire chief officer, I am aware that some current active firefighters dismiss us as old guys who have no relevance today. I know that some retires do not keep up with technology, etc.; that does not mean all of us. Some are still active as instructors, AD , VFF`s, etc. There is no substitute for experience!


      “Kyle Dickman is a former editor at Outside magazine and a former member of the firefighting crew known as the Tahoe Hotshots. He spent five seasons fighting wildfires in California.”
      He was hotshot with Tahoe for less then one full season and before that he was on engine crew for 4 seasons, it’s easy to assume his bio means 5 years as hotshot but it’s not the case.
      About cell records if any investigation team got ops cell phone records, they stayed under wraps because this info is not in any report or public release.

    2. are you the John Barbour who was a Ranger 1 in the Humboldt Del Norte Ranger District in the late 70’s? Call sign “1212”? Just curious, I worked at Thorne Fire Station 1977-78 as a firefighter for Kevin Papineau, Russ Gordon, and Ed Brady.

  5. Tomorrow—- remember the Rattle Snake Fire 1953 and the 15 who died including my Father USFS Mendocino NF. Their death’s along with others Created the 10 Standard Orders in 1956.
    YES I do fell I have owner ship to the 10 Standard Orders. My dad made the mistakes that helped set them up. No Look out and No Communications with any one who could see the main fire. GM made the same fatal mistakes as have many others LCES is all covered in the 10 just a quick reference now and still relevant in WILD LAND FIRE.

  6. The Commander in Chief, the CEO, the Captain of the Ship step down in the real world, often taking responsibility with dignity because they are top of the food chain and In Charge. Except for Wildland fire. In fire you’re given annual critical training then it is clear that anything that goes wrong aftwr that will be your fault because you’ve been taught the all mighty 10 and 18. Doesn’t matter if overhead makes mistakes and gives you faulty Intel or fails to give you key Intel you need for safety that comes to them exclusively and the only way you can gain the info is from them. Doesnt matter if someone else breaks a 10 and it jacks your safety. Doesn’t matter because the 10 and 18 are a magic shield to cover everything, cover every possibility no matter what. This is a rediculous set up, what other professional industries operate like this?

    1. I did for 33 years Your safety is your responsibility no matter what any one else says the 10 and 18 served 1000.s of FF well.
      I ran crews as a Crew Boss/Sector Boss and Division Boss including 3 years on a Hot Shot Crew. I am proud to say we Never deployed I never had a Serious injury on any of my crews, none were burned, we spent a few times in safety zones or in the black and I contribute that to the 10 and 13 in my day as would 1000’s of others right up to this day and yes I am still in touch with many current and past Hot Shots. You do and you have the right to refuse an overhead request based on Safety and the 10 and 18.

  7. Ultimately the finger should get pointed to the people leading the crew. They are the ones responsible for the safety of everyone. They have the power to turn down an assignment/order. Side note…. I’ve always had a hard time calling a type 1 crew with people with no experience or just one season under their belt an “elite crew”.

    1. Jason Thanks that was my statement that started this The ultimate responsibility lays with the Supervisors.

  8. Reply to FFSafety post on July 7, 2015 at 12:35 pm

    >> FFSafety said…
    >> Bob they announced that they were going “SOUTH” – on the trail
    >> that was “MID-SLOPE.” That’s the trail that we can see in the pictures.
    >> And Musser and Cordes and other ppl testified that they heard GM
    >> say they were moving on their predetermined escape route down to
    >> their bomb-proof safety zone from that “morning.”
    >> Lord-a-lord, Bob – hows much more specific did you want them to be?

    In his one-and-only ADOSH interview, OPS2 Paul Musser DOES mention hearing something along those lines… but unlike what your statement above suggests… Musser specifically told ADOSH he heard absolutely NO mention of any ‘escape route’ and/or ‘safety zone’. He was sure about that.

    Musser told ADOSH that when HE spoke directly with Marsh ( at exactly 3:42 PM ) and Musser was checking on Granite Mountain’s ‘availability’ for additional assignments closer to Yarnell itself… the only response he got was that GM was still “committed to the ridge” and Musser told ADOSH that Marsh never talked of an escape route or safety zones during THAT conversation, either.

    Musser also told ADOSH that whatever might have been said over the radio ( in some other conversation he was not a part of ) about a ‘predetermined route’… he ( Musser ) had no frickin’ idea WHAT that meant.

    No one was talking to HIM about it… and Musser told ADOSH that he could only assume whoever they WERE mentioning that to over the radio understood what they meant… and Musser then never lifted a finger to find OUT what it meant.

    Paul Musser didn’t even have any idea who the ‘someone’ is that Marsh was talking to and also made no attempt to find that out, either.

    From OPS2 Paul Musser’s ADOSH interview…
    Starting with line 2542 of the interview…
    Q = Brett Steurer, ADOSH investigator
    Q2 = Barry Hicks, ADOSH investigator
    A = OPS2 Paul Musser
    Q2: Oh. Uh, anything else you can think of that we probably need to know at this point and time? Uh…
    A: Uh, at one point I did hear Granite Mountain say they were using their predetermined route towards the structures.
    Q2: Oh, you did hear that?
    A: I did – I overheard that. Uh, I don’t know whether that was Granite talking to Eric or who they were – I did – I overheard that part of a conversation.
    Q2: Between Granite and somebody?
    A: Yes.
    Q2: Uh, but you don’t know who they were actually talking or…
    A: No. I do not… But there was no urgency, no – never talked of an escape route or safety zones or anything like that. It was just – or…
    Q2: And how did they say it? They…
    A: I think they said we’re going down our predetermined route towards the structures, I think is what was said.
    Q: Is that predetermined route something they might have marked with flags or…
    A: Uh, obviously whoever – who they were talking to knew what that meant.

    So I believe your question was…

    “How much more specific did you want them to be?”

    How about specific enough that OPS2 Paul Musser ( and others ) wouldn’t have later testified to ADOSH that he/they had no frickin’ idea what Marsh was talking about?

    So regardless of what was SAID…
    OPS2 Musser had no idea what Marsh really MEANT… and he also never bothered to find out.


    * OPS1 Todd Abel, on the north side, had no idea what Marsh really meant.
    * None of the Blue Ridge Hotshots had any idea what Marsh really meant.
    * TLFD(t) Trainee Tyson Esquibel had no idea what Marsh really meant.

    The evidence record suggests that the ONLY person in Yarnell who DID have ANY idea what all that “predetermined this morning” stuff meant was the man who “predetermined” it… and made that ‘Safety Zone’ assignment to Marsh that morning.

    That was SPGS1 Gary Cordes.

    Cordes is still the only person on the Yarnell IMT who admits to never having any doubts where Granite Mountain was going. Cordes might have had no idea they would be so foolish as to NOT stay on that two-track and attempt a shorcut through a blind box canyon filled with explosive fuel… but Cordes was SURE they were headed to the Boulder Springs Ranch.

    Unfortunately… Cordes’ own Situational Awareness (SA) was so bad that afternoon that even he had no idea what the fire was ACTUALLY doing out in that ‘middle bowl’ and so he was under the FALSE impression they had ‘plenty of time’ and there was no need for any kind of ‘intervention’ on his part.

    >> FFSafety also said…
    >> In hindsight it would have been great if someone had stopped
    >> them and asked for more detail.

    Wow. You are talking as if you consider it to be OPTIONAL that a Incident Management Team know EXACTLY where their resources are and EXACTLY where they are going ( if they are still moving and not safe yet ) when a dangerous fire is exploding like a bomb.

    There is no “would have been great” about it.

    As a ‘Division Supervisor’ moving resources from one Division to another… Marsh was REQUIRED by the rules of his profession to make it CLEAR to ‘Operations’ what was happening… and to be sure they APPROVED of his decision(s).

    Marsh was a “Division Supervisor” on that fire and he was essentially moving ALL of the resources assigned to his Division OUT of their assigned Division ‘A” and into ANOTHER Division on the fire ( Division Z ).

    The official NWCG rules for Division Supervisors REQUIRED that he make this clear to his “Operations Section Chief” and that there be no ‘mysteries’ involved.

    NWCG Task Book for the Position of: Division Supervisor
    Page 13…
    Item 29: Notify Operations Section Chief when resources are
    moved or shared between divisions/groups.

    There is no “would be great if you would do that” in the DIVS TASKBOOK.
    It’s a MUST DO.

    Marsh did NOT communicate the ‘move’ in any kind of clear, effective manner to everyone who SHOULD have known, as also required by just the ‘C’ in LCES.

    >> FFSafety also said…
    >> who was gonna ask because Cordes knew where they were headed
    >> and he thought they had plenty of time so he and Musser were not
    >> going to second guess.

    You are right… but with a ‘caveat’.

    SPGS1 Gary Cordes seemed to be the ONLY one who understood ANY of Marsh’s references to “predetermined” routes or ‘safety zones’… because Cordes is the one who GAVE the BSR that “predetermined’ label ( to Marsh ) that morning.

    But as for OPS2 Paul Musser…. see above.

    OPS2 Paul Musser told the ADOSH investigators that even after hearing something about ‘predetermined route’… Musser had no frickin’ idea what that meant… and ( apparently ) never even lifted a finger to FIND OUT what that meant.

    >> FFSafety also said…
    >> When things are heating up on a fire, commo can slip without us even
    >> noticing until commo is bad. Have ya ever been sending on 1 tac and
    >> receiving on another? You know – a conversation where you are sending
    >> on Tac 1 and they are hitting you back on Tac 3 and neither of you are
    >> realizing it because you are hearing each other and not looking down.
    >> You have conversation but if either of you had thought to look you would
    >> have realized you werent really having good commo. Ya. It happens.

    The problem you are now describing sounds like if something isn’t done to improve THAT situation… someone is GOING to get KILLED… but what you are describing is NOT what was happening in Yarnell, Arizona, on June 30, 2013.

    Yes… there were some ‘bad spots’ and people actually had some minor ‘tone guard’ and physical radio problems such as Cordes’ BK portable’s transmit switch taking a dump and he had to throw on the seat and just use his Motorolas ( which did NOT have the Incident’s A2G channel programmed in and he never stopped for a moment to fix THAT problem ).

    But all in all… TWO different investigations actually determined that there were not enough technical issues with radios or tones or lack of repeaters for that to have been an ACTUAL (direct) causal factor in the deaths of 19 Arizona Forestry employees.

    The ‘bad como’ that day was not because of the radios themselves.

    It was because of people either choosing ( or never having been taught how ) to use them to actually COMMUNICATE in an effective, safety-minded way.

    Once again… even Mike Dudley, the Co-leader of the SAIT itself, told a roomful of firefighters in a public speech in Utah on June 20, 2014…

    “A lot of people were talking… very few people were communicating.
    It was almost as if Granite Mountain was being deliberately vague.”

    >> FFSafety also said…
    >> You don’t realize that there are communications problems until there
    >> are communications problems!!! Everyone sees it in hindsight but the
    >> people in the thick of it don’t get the benefit of our hindsight.

    Again… you are describing a problem that I’m sure exists… and if it isn’t addressed someone else is GOING to get KILLED for this reason alone…

    …but as far as the Yarnell Incident goes… investigations have proven that Granite Mountain did not LACK the ABILITY to communicate. They simply were not communicating “Clearly and Effectively”, as LCES requires.

    We can hear for ourselves in the Caldwell video that Eric Marsh had NO PROBLEMS communicating directly with OPS1 Todd Abel on the north end of the fire. No ‘relay’ needed.

    OPS2 Paul Musser testifies to having been able to communicate directly with DIVSA Eric Marsh, when he wanted to. No ‘relay’ needed.

    Other testimony establishes that OTHERS were hearing Marsh and Steed communicate directly over both TAC and A2G channels without any problems. No ‘relay’ needed.

    The ‘como’ problem that day was that only ONE person seemed to fully UNDERSTAND what they were SAYING… and that was SPGS1 Gary Cordes.

    Even when OPS2 Paul Musser testified to ADOSH that he HEARD Marsh communicating directly with ‘someone else’ and mentioning something about a “predetermined route”… OPS2 Paul Musser never lifted a finger to even find out what that really meant.

    The radios themselves are not to blame for the lack of communication on this particular Incident. No way.

    >> FFSafety also said…
    >> Your timeline is off too Bob. At 4:30 pm the fire was at least
    >> a good 3/4 of a mile from the Boulder Springs Ranch.

    That is totally false.

    The SAIT’s own published fireline progression charts AND other existing photographic and video evidence proves otherwise.


    The following YouTube video shows all of the Special Accident Investigation Team ( SAIT ) official fire progression estimates transposed onto Google Earth in 3 dimensions.

    NOTE: The ADOSH investigators agreed that these SAIT fireline progressions could be considered accurate and so they never did their own charts. They simply relied on these SAIT charts for their own investigation.

    At +0:52 into the video… the SAIT’s own 4:30 PM estimated fireline appears transposed onto the ground in 3 dimensions.

    It isn’t even as ‘far along’ as other photographic evidence indicates it REALLY was by 4:30 PM… but it’s pretty close… and even this SAIT 4:30 PM fireline estimate has the ‘flaming front’ of the now south-headed fireline only 1,148 feet due north of the perimeter of the Boulder Springs Ranch.

    1,148 feet equals just 338 yards and only .22 mile away ( LESS than 1/4 mile ).

    The same SAIT 4:30 PM fireline shows the leading edge also only 971 feet away from the ‘mouth’ of the box canyon. That’s just 324 yards and under 2 tenths of a mile ( 0.18 mile ).

    The same SAIT 4:30 PM fireline shows the leading edge also only 1,877 feet away from what would become the actual ‘deployment site’ there on the floor of the box canyon. That’s 626 yards and just over 1/3 of a mile ( 0.36 mile ).

  9. To FFSafety:
    One example of IMT problem the critical Wx update was given to IMT 3:26. Choice A would be to notify all FF’S on the line, order them off the fire to stage or hold in safe place. This wasnt done Some were notified some were not and left on their own to react to it. IM Team could have Managed the incoming weather by reacting and making command decisions for safety of All ffs and civilians immediatly.Why dIdnt Sair disect this IMT possible decision at point a b and c? Whats Definition of managment?

    1. Hey JW. Everyone did stay in safe places after the 3:26 weather alert. Todd Abel or someone checked with GM personally. The question is how long to wait after the 3:26 pm warning b4 it is safe to engage again. The entrapment occurred at abt 4:41 pm.

      1. Hey JaqfromAl,
        There were ffs who never got the 326 wx. “Everyone” did not stay in safe places aftwr 326 wx.Some were caught off guard and nearly burned over with minutes to spare. After 4pm.The Sair failed to tell this they would have you believe GM made a isolated mistake when in fact there was a systemic safety problem. Not only for other FF’S besides GMtn but for civilians too.

  10. FFSafety– GM said they were on mid slope cutting over nothing about south.
    They told OPS and Frisby they were in hard black/working across the black.
    They never said down to the bomb proof safety zone of that morning. If you can find that let me know where it is at so I can read it have never seen that stated.
    They did say they were moving on their predetermined escape route but Frisby also asked if they were in the Black and Steed responded just moving across the black no south no bomb proof SZ.
    Musser, Able and Hall all stated they thought GM was safe in the Black.
    Cordes said he was not surprised at where they were found an may have known more but there is no more info on that.
    By the way I was in Wild land Fire and retired in 1994 and very familure with
    Communication problems they are a continual mess nothing new.
    Also Marsh spent quite a bit of time on his Cell talking with Able His OPS Chief
    So there was some good Com there.
    Yes I would expect more information from a Division Sup. If he was leaving his assignment and pulling a crew off the Line with him. Marsh had the ability to make a Cell Call if nothing else and discuss that move or what he planed.
    That was not done.
    The Pictures and Fire projection charts show the Fire was less than a 1/3 of a mile from them at 1630 at 1642 they were in front of the Flaming front just 12 minuets. When they left the Rest area at 1605 the fire front was less than 3/4 of a mile from there descent route Those flame marks are calculated on Goggle Earth by Wants to know the truth and can be done very point specific on the fire projection charts in the SAIT. The Fire turned to the South at approximately 1620 with 20 to 30 MPH winds. You do the rate of spread calculations.
    I still Fall Back on one very clear fact The Crews Supervisors are responsible for the Crews Safety. They made a bad decision by leaving the BLACK and a terrible decision when they dropped into a brush filled canyon.

    1. Who do you think Marsh was talking to at 413 when someone asked his status and he says “the guys, Granite is making their way down our escape route from this morning it’s South, mid slope…” one thing that stands out obvious in that audio is the word South. But you say nothing is said about south, it’s there clear as day. I agree nothing has been heard about going to bomb proof SZ. But Eric does say “escape route from this morning” which I think got translated later into predetermined ER. Then he says ” our escape route has been cut off”. He makes 2 mentions of the ER. Did you ever consider that the talk about moving through the black was when they WERE moving in the black? or in reference to some GMTN returning back along the handline to Chris McK video spot? Context and timing gets lost in translation. Sair time line is off and some conversations are out of order equals confusion.About safety Sciacca just because resource record says one thing doesn’t mean it happened that way. Sciacca arrived Icp 3-ish and was down in Yarnell by 4-ish. You can’t quote a resource order and expect to be accurate.

      1. You just proved my statement that Tony was not on scene until 1600 or later and not active on day shift.
        Yes I considered every thing you said. You need a resource order to report to the fire unless R3 or the state just sends resources the punches out orders when ever I seriously doubt that.
        Lets get back to south look at the fire lay out South was down the back side of the Ridge into the dessert. If you are referring to the route the crew took it was a Easterly direction down the ridge and down the canyon. Yes on the South side of the fire.

        1. You started out saying there was no SO assigned on the 30th. Then you said he was not active until after deployment then you said the SO wasn’t effective or involved w/o a written plan. Then you changed your point to Sciacca not being on the fire assigned to day shift. (To which I reply so what?) You might want to read Adosh interview with Sciacca, lines 445 to 533. He arrived Icp 300, tied in with folks at Peeples, patrolled the road and had concerns about some helos over the road. Maybe some SAFETY concerns?Then he went to Yarnell @ 4pm. I’M not sure how you define assigned, active effective, on scene or involved.Of course Sciacca needed a resource order but the arrival time stated on the resource order, 1700 did not match Sciacca actual arrival time of 1500.
          About south and semantics and direction, from the McK video place to top of valley where they went down it is heading southeast . Eric called it south.I’m finding it hard to follow your logic and call,me stupid but I’m X-ing out of this thread it’s like a house of mirrors. Sorry about your Dad on the Rattlesnake fire.bye

          1. Sorry JW was trying to Clarify The SOFR
            Based on my training and Resources Ordered after 1200 is normally Night Shift.
            (Unless it is an IA first shift Fire)
            Fire camp buy 1700 for 1800 assignment.
            As was stated he was trying to get a handle on the fire or Situation awareness.
            He was not actively involved until after the Deployment. IE.—Night shift That was my only point. He did not report into Fire Camp till 1600 As you said Yarnell.
            Yes they were heading mostly East when they dropped into the Canyon. They traveled in a East? South East direction Never South.

  11. So catastrophic burnovers go hand in hand with WUI? Please expand Dickman, I don’t see the connection. Perhaps the verbiage should have said firefighters need to look at fire differently due to the urban interface being in every nook and cranny of the landscape? Oooor, do what the IRPG says and stand back and let the fire whoof through and then go in and engage. WHY would you say more fatalities will be the norm??? Gravity, snags, vehicle accidents–those things are the unpreventable occurrences on wild land fires but burnovers? Come on dude.

    And to solely blame Eric Marsh? Is this an opinion or is this a fact? Because in your book there is no fact based proof here, only the knowledge that Eric Marsh was the Superintendent of the GMIHC. And amongst various former and current hotshots their opinion is that since Eric and Jesse were the leadership it was their fault and only their fault, I sense this is where you get your opinion. But how about this: Since Eric Marsh was acting as DIVS on an incident management team, doesn’t that therefore make Eric Marsh part of the management team? Eric was not acting as the Superintendent this fateful day, no, he was part of the leadership team where a chain of command exists. Operations, Safety Officer, and the IC were all in place to give direction to Eric so until this is proven or disproven please don’t publicly lay the blame on Eric Marsh. The “getting credit for the good decisions you also get credit for the bad ones” goes all around, including to the IMT.

    Spend more money in prevention rather than fighting the fires. You got it here, maybe being a politician is more up your alley than commenting on the new norm in firefighting.

    Even the reporter is on to firefighters in the first place shouldn’t be in a place to have to use their shelters, hmmm. This reporter schools the one year hotshot, classic.

    1. exhotshot—All well said how ever there was no Safety Officer assigned to the Fire on the 30th (just a information note).
      As a Division Boss you are still responsible for the Safety of the resources on your Division. It is not easy to step away from your crew and not be involved in the decision making. I think that is the case here.

      1. To those who have read the investigative material, remember there was one Safety Officer who was engaged and another one who had just gotten on scene? Tony Sciacca was the first to arrive and was on YHF for almost 2 hours and Marty Cole was barely there to get his radio cloned and learn of the deployment, both SOFR’s. Sciacca would have us believe that he was building Situational Awareness but in reality does it really take hours for a SOFR1 to build SA? On a transition fire that was never really identified as such?? The SOFR’s may have arrived on scene later in the day but to say there was no SOFR assigned on the 30th is a mistake. Just an information note.

        I understand the difficulty for a Supt in separating from a Division assignment and their crew and that may be true. And as an OPS and SOFR and IC you are still responsible for the safety of resources, hence the people that run the fire are called an Incident Management TEAM. The SAIR failed to look at what could have been learned by examining anyone else’s decisions beyond the Granite Mountain Hotshots and that’s a travesty.

        1. Exhotshot well said. The Sair only looked at Granites choices at point a b and c and should have done the same with IMT,they had choices too.

          1. Just to add you both are right.
            The SOFR was not active until after the deployment They were ordered but not on the fire till late in the afternoon or involved in the Day shift plan. With out a written plan Tony was not affective or involved with any Safety that day.
            The SAIR was not a thorough investigation as we have all learned.

          2. JW or ex – what is the problem with the IMT? what do you see as the problem i guess is the better question? Tx.

          3. What are you saying Powers? That SOFR Tony Sciacca wasn’t active until AFTER the deployment? Wrong. And that it takes a written plan for said SOFR to be effective or involved with safety? Wrong. There was never an IAP written for the 30th because it was a transition fire! What the hell are you talking about? Tony Sciacca WAS engaged for approximately 2 hours prior to deployment, convincing us he was only building his SA remember?

            Letting the SOFR off the hook because there was no written plan is BS. So does this also apply to the OPS and IC because there was no written IAP they could disengage from the fire? You make no sense and show your current experience–is this what it was like 30 years ago? I can 100% assure you that current hotshot crews sometimes do not get an IAP at the morning briefing–don’t you know those IAP’s are made of gold? So does that also mean that because they never received a written plan they don’t engage? I’m spinning my wheels here.

            FFSafety–My problem with the IMT without going into specifics is the general non-attention they received with YHF. Neither investigation really took the time to look at the IMT in what they either did or didn’t do or what they could have done better–lessons learned. The microscope was only put on GMIHC and in simple terms is not fair, there are too many moving parts involved with wild land fire to ignore all of them and focus on dead firefighters that cannot speak. That crew worked for somebody who worked for somebody else and so on and so on..all the way up to the State Forester Jim Downey. Sure most of these people were interviewed but no deep learning was involved or attempted regarding the IMT in the successes or the mistakes they made.

        2. Sciacca was ordered on 6/30/13 at 1357 to report at 1700 to the Fire O-53. You are saying he was on the fire 2 hours before the burn over that would have put him there at 1445 45 minuets after he was ordered????
          Safety of resources Ops asked if GM was available
          they said no they were in the Black, Ops said Hunker and be safe. Then they moved at 1605?

          1. FFsafety
            I am saying that Tony was not on the fire as a SO assigned to the day shift. Based on the Resource order I referenced.
            I agree with your statements that a SO dose not need a written plan but as you said and it was very obvious there was a lot of confusion with the IMT 2 OPS, DIV-Z a division Sup. that disappeared, and on and on A safety Officer night mare. You say he was there for 2 hours before deployment I can not find that his Order number O-53 says he was not ordered for the Day shift ordered at 1357 to report at 1700.
            If he was there as you say he was not assigned or active in putting out safety directives until after the deployment.
            We got into all of this because I believed and the record shows that there was no SOFR on the 30th day shift. The SOFR’s were all ordered after 1230 to report that evening or the next morning. Could Tony have been there soon enough and orientated to the situation to have prevented the Deployment I doubt it. And again that as you say reflects back on The Type 2 Team.

  12. Bob you need to read the essay on here by John Maclean who proves that there were Communications, Eric Marsh was probably out scouting the escape route, there was a safety zone and one of the guys was staying back to serve as the lookout. LCES. You can have LCES and still get into a bad spot. Sometimes the fire turns on a dime faster than you can get down your escape route.
    Go back and read the essay from John Mcalen on here and you will see there was communcations and a safety zone and escape route etc.
    Not all accidents are preventable.

    1. You are wrong I read the Essay but Disagree with John and that was early on there were some assumed Communications but none were specific., the Canyon was not a escape route it was a brush filled hard slug that they had to go thru and evidence shows there was no Look out, no one stayed back or they would be alive. Marsh was in no place to be a look out. They were in the Black a already SZ they did not have to move. They had no Lookout— they Had no communications— or planed communications– with their supervisor or adjoining forces All evidence shows they did not tell OPS of their move. You plan ahead not to be surprised by a Fire change that was predicted. I have been investigating this for the past 2 years. The BSR may have been a safety Zone but it was a mile and a half from the crew thru 6 to 10 FT brush down hill thru a canyon and no trail That is not what I would call an escape route. The BSR was the SZ the other 3 legs were missing.

      1. It will be proved that Marsh was down by the house before the crew.There was couple of good spots where he could see the fire and the crew coming down, He was the lookout. Communications show somebody asked their status and Eric answered, and somebody told them to hurry along. Eric reported moving to pilot and to other hotshot crew and more.SZ was the ranch and about the ER do you know if evidence shows improving the route? Because there’s stuff to suggest it was that you don’t know. You should keep an open mind to the unknown.

        1. According to Goggle Earth Marsh and the Crew were Blind to the Fire. What Marsh reported was not where they were going but they were moving to both AA and Frisby/BR he told them the crew was moving thru the black not down the route they took.
          AA only knew they were on the South side of the Fire not where. If in fact it is proven that Marsh was at BSR SZ when the crew started off the Fire then he had to head back up the canyon to meet them and became blind to the Fire. That is still open to discussion at this time. There was communications but non specific locations. If in fact any of the GM crew could have seen the Fire at 1625 they would have realized they were in a bad place the Fire was moving right at them and at less than 1/3 of a mile based on fire pictures and Fire spread annalists. Marsh may have well flagged the route but it was not an open route and the crew had to bush whack a mile thru the canyon. There is no evidence of any pre route trail building. I have spent 2 years researching the SAIR all the pictures and audio with others I have been very evolved in all the information and the facts that say there was no consideration of LCES. The IC and OPS did not know that GM left the Black. That is in their statements in the SAIR. This is a very complicated investigation with some critical unknowns.
          My view is based on the 10 and 18 and they should never have left the Black at 1600 they were in a position of taking a calculated risk which should never happen for any reason.

          1. Bob they announced that they were going “SOUTH” – on the trail that was “MID-SLOPE.” That’s the trail that we can see in the pictures. And Musser and Cordes and other ppl testified that they heard GM say they were moving on their predetermined escape route down to their bomb-proof safety zone from that “morning.” Lord-a-lord, Bob – hows much more specific did you want them to be? In hindsight it would have been great if someone had stopped them and asked for more detail but who was gonna ask because Cordes knew where they were headed and he thought they had plenty of time so he and Musser were not going to second guess. GM had the best eyes on the fire other than air attack.

            When things are heating up on a fire, commo can slip without us even noticing until commo is bad. Have ya ever been sending on 1 tac and receiving on another? You know – a conversation where you are sending on Tac 1 and they are hitting you back on Tac 3 and neither of you are realizing it because you are hearing each other and not looking down. You have conversation but if either of you had thought to look you would have realized you werent really having good commo. Ya. It happens.

            You were on a hotshot crew in the 1970s and there are a lot more folks on transition fires these days than in the 1970s which can create real communication problems if the com plan isn’t great yet or if people don’t realize the com plan isn’t enough until the com plan fails. And then we all realize it. In your day there were what ten, twelve hotshot crews and nowadays it is not uncommon for a Type 1 team to have a standing order for at least ten hotshot crews on one fire!!! Com plans are a world different than they were in the 1970s and I don’t know if the technology has really gotten that much better. Commo can get bad quick and the only way to figure out that commo is bad is for commo to be bad. Yarnell Hill was a transition fire but even a good type 1 fire can have commo problems if the fire heats up quickly and everyone is trying to communicate at once. If the repeaters aren’t set up yet or the com plan hasn’t kept up with the number of resources arriving or there are too many people trying to transmit at any one time. You don’t realize that there are communications problems until there are communications problems!!! Everyone sees it in hindsight but the people in the thick of it don’t get the benefit of our hindsight.

            anyways. Your timeline is off too Bob. At 4:30 pm the fire was at least a good 3/4 of a mile from the Boulder Springs Ranch. Guessing that is why Cordes thought they would have no problem making it. Most of us go our whole career without seeing with our own eyes a fire close a 3/4 mile gap in a few minutes. Stuff of nightmares.

        2. Reply to JW post on on
          July 7, 2015 at 8:39 am said:

          >> JW said…
          >> It will be proved that Marsh was down
          >> by the house before the crew.

          WHEN? And by WHO?

          It’s been two years and most of the families have settled their lawsuits. It’s time for anyone who knows anything else about what happened in Yarnell on June 30, 2013 to finally pull up their big girl/boy shorts and report about it.

          >> JW also said…
          >> There was couple of good spots where
          >> he could see the fire and the crew
          >> coming down, He was the lookout.

          If that is true… then he failed that assignment in a pretty horrific way, wouldn’t you say?

          >> JW also said…
          >> Communications show somebody asked
          >> their status and Eric answered

          Yes. At 4:13 PM

          >> and somebody told them to hurry along.

          Yes. At 4:27 PM

          >> Eric reported moving to pilot

          If you are referring to the elusive Air Attack Rory Collins… he then promptly LEFT the fire at 3:58 PM and didn’t pass on anything about GM to Bravo 33 ( Warbis and Lenmark ).

          If you are referring to any possible later exchanges with Bravo 33 ( after Collins left at 3:58 PM )… then why were Thomas French and John Burfiend ( Bravo 33 ) totally clueless about where they even MIGHT be when Jesse Steed’s first MAYDAY hit the A2G channel at 4:39 PM?

          >> JW also said…
          >> and to other hotshot crew

          No one who has testified for Blue Ridge ( and they were only allowed to testify to Arizona Forestry, not ADOSH ) has claimed they had ANY real idea where GM was, where they were going, or what they were doing, regardless of any radio exchanges.

          The ‘C’ in LCES doesn’t mean just push a button on a radio and ******** people and/or be obtuse.

          The ‘C’ in LCES means “Communicate CLEARLY and EFFECTIVELY”.

          It didn’t happen.

          That part of LCES was a ‘total fail’ that day.

          Even Mike Dudley, the Co-leader of the SAIT itself, told a roomful of firefighters in a public speech in Utah on June 20, 2014…

          “A lot of people were talking… very few people were communicating.A lot of people were talking… very few people were communicating… It was almost as if Granite Mountain was bein’ deliberately vague.”

          >> JW also said…
          >> and more.

          Who are the ‘more’ you are referring to?

          Are you talking about the cellphone calls and/or text messages sent by the GM Hotshots themselves circa 3:55 PM?

          Those don’t count as part of the ‘C’ in LCES.

          >> JW also said…
          >> SZ was the ranch and about the ER do
          >> you know if evidence shows improving
          >> the route? Because there’s stuff to
          >> suggest it was that you don’t know.

          What ‘stuff’?

          >> JW also said…
          >> You should keep an open mind to the unknown.

          I think anyone who has been following this circle jerk for two years now has LEARNED to have an ‘open mind’. It’s hard to forget that suddenly Brendan McDonough went running to Darrell Willis and told him he had things he needed to “get off his chest”… and Willis was shocked enough by what McDonough told him ( whatever it was ) that Willis gave McDonough an ultimatum.

          Willis (apparently) told McDonough… “This is too big for me to keep it to myself. I’ll give YOU a few days to tell the authorities what you know… but if you don’t… then I will”.

          And he did. Willis went directly to the City of Prescott’s attorney and then they arranged a conference with both Arizona Forestry and lawyers from the Arizona Attorney General’s office.

          Whatever it was that McDonough told Willis… it sure wasn’t about what he had for lunch out on the lookout mound. It MUST be IMPORTANT… and the families deserve to know what Brendan knows.

          So minds remain totally OPEN.

          What is this ‘evidence’ you are talking about now?

          1. Correction for the posting above.

            The Air Attack module known as ‘Bravo 33’ over Yarnell that afternoon was NOT occupied by Paul Lenmark and Rusty Warbis. They were flying in the aircraft designated as just ‘Bravo 3’ that day.

            ‘Bravo 33’ took over as Air Attack from Rory Collins when he left the fire at 3:58 because his pilot was ‘timing out’… and ‘Bravo 33’ was occupied by Thomas French ( pilot ) and John Burfiend ( right seat ) and there was an ATGS trainee also onboard by the name of Clint Cross.

            So whatever Air Attack Rory Collins might have been told about Granite Mountain’s ‘plans’… it was Thomas French and John Burfiend in ‘Bravo 33’ who did not receive that information from Collins when he left the fire at 3:58 PM.

  13. As a long time Fire Fighter (33 Years) and a Asst. Superintendent of a Hot Shot Crew for 3 Years. We all know the Hard Truth. The Supervisors are ultimately responsible for the Safety of their crew. They are in charge the have the training and experience and responsibility to make those calls in the end it rests on their shoulders. The call to leave the black with the Fire activity as it was less than 3/4 of a mile from them and walk down into a brush filled canyon not using the Simple Safety of LCES.
    There is no pointing fingers here it is just the simple truth.
    If you are a wild land FF you can pick out severial 10 and 18’s that were ignored which would have kept them and any other FF safe.
    In the End Marsh and Steed Made the call and its there Responsibility for Safety Pointing the Finger of who was in charge here is easy you do not need any thing to back it up. You get credit for the good decisions you also get credit for the bad ones.

    1. Bob Powers, you are retired, right? I dunno a single type 1 ground pounder or supt. or assistant who didn’t do the Yarnell Hill walk a year or more ago and say “I coulda done ended up there.” The guys and gals in R3 are shook up. Monday morning generalities don’t help. You are posting a lot but the guys who are still on the line and on shot crews are not saying anything cause they know it could have been anyone. When the fire blows you can get pinched. You do your best to protect and you heed the 10 and 18 and LCES but accidents can still happen.

      1. First I also herd form a member of the walk thru who stated to me that the Members of the walk thru were shocked that Marsh and Steed did what they did and violated there own ideas of fire Safety. Not wanting to argue with you but we seem to be getting two different takes on the walk thru.

  14. Mr. Dickman throwing Eric Marsh under the bus. I read the book and all it did was to create more questions than answers. In none of the reports I have read has there been a direct quote that Marsh was the responsible party in this tragedy. Dickman’s book cast shadows of doubt on everyone. Most compelling is the implication that there was some inter crew conflicts and that maybe McDonough had heard something on the crew channel that could/would shed some light on the tragedy. Don’t call this an accident because it was no accident. 19 firefighters made the call to leave their assigned division and safety to protect the Town of Yarnell. As far as Dickman and the book, while the book is good it is in no way answering any question people in the wildland fire community have. One year as a shot doesn’t make him an expert on wildland fire and point the finger at Marsh without anything to back it up proves that.


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