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.
Continue reading “Behind the scenes — preparations for the Granite Mountain 19’s memorial service”

The Prescott newspaper covers the Granite Mountain 19

This is the front page of Prescott’s newspaper, the Daily Courier today, Monday, July 8 — the day after the bodies of the 19 firefighters were escorted from Phoenix to Prescott, and the day before the scheduled memorial service on Tuesday.

Prescott's Daily Courier, front page
Prescott’s Daily Courier, front page, July 8, 2013

Honor Escort for the Granite Mountain 19

The 19 members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots that died on the Yarnell Hill Fire June 30 were escorted back to Prescott today, closer to their home base. They were moved from the medical examiner’s office in Phoenix to the medical examiner’s office in Prescott, a distance of approximately 100 miles. A helicopter was circling overhead. The first part of the ground escort was about 20 officers on motorcycles.

These first three photos were taken on Highway 89 five miles north of Yarnell, Arizona.

Honor Escort, motorcycle officers
Honor Escort, motorcycle officers

A few vehicles after the bikes was a Granite Mountain Hotshots’ crew carrier.

Honor Escort, Granite Mountain Hotshots
Honor Escort, Granite Mountain Hotshots’ crew carrier and the 19 hearses.

And then the 19 hearses, each with a sign in the window identifying the Hotshot inside.

Granite Mountain Hotshots' Honor Escort
Hearses for the Granite Mountain Hotshots
Yarnell Hill Fire, honor escort, APS cranes
Yarnell Hill Fire-7-7-2013-Arizona Public Service company cranes with flags draped wait for the procession of hearses carrying the 19 fallen firefighters travels through Yarnell on highway 89 Sunday afternoon, on its way to Prescott.
Photo by Tom Tingle/The Arizona Republic. Used with permission.

A memorial service for the Granite Mountain 19 will be held in Prescott Tuesday. We will remain in the area reporting on this historic event.

The first three photos were taken by Bill Gabbert.

The Yarnell Hill tragedy; examining the wind and topography

(UPDATE at 9:14 p.m. MDT, July 6, 2013)

We added this photo of 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.

Yarnell Hill Fire fatality site, Arizona, 2013. Prescott FD photo by Wade Ward. (click to enlarge)


(Originally published at 8:53 MDT, July 6, 2013)

Robert Ford, who grew up in Prescott, studied some of the information that is available about the wind when the 19 members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots were killed on the Yarnell Fire June 30. His message is below, with a few notes from me [in brackets].


“A graphic showing the “safety zone” and shelter deployment site is here.”

[Note from Bill: the times in that article are approximately 6 hours in error. We were told by Carrie Dennett of the Arizona State Forestry Division that their office received notice that shelters had been deployed at 4:47 local time, Mountain STANDARD Time. But they were not in direct communication with firefighters. The information had to travel up a chain of command and may have been delayed. I have not seen definitive word on when the deployment took place.]

“A Google Earth rough approximation of the high res photo above is attached.

Approximate location of shelter deployment
Approximate location of shelter deployment. Google Earth.

Looking due west, eye altitude about 5400 feet. The approx. shelter site is 34.221416,-112.775796. The Landsat imagery was acquired last May; note the fuel, when compared to the Facebook photo above.

If you have Google Earth, it is also easy to duplicate the camera location of the time-lapse video (posted on your site) [embedded again above] purportedly shot from “Congress”; actually I’ve determined it was shot just west of the Date Creek Road (dirt – you can see the dust clouds from passing vehicles) just North of the intersection with Highway 89. The time-lapse video, looking N45E, shows the fire just cresting the ridge starting about one mile due Northwest of the shelter deployment site, then flashing to the right (southeast) along the ridge-line towards the deploy site. The smoke then obscures how the fire must have flashed over the ridge just 1500 feet west of the deploy site. In any event, the video shows how very rapidly the wind moved through the natural basin of the deploy site; probably aided by a natural venturi effect from the walls of the basin; also note that by the end of the video a trailing vortice formed off the ridge crest has actually moved the plume locally down (by 2000 feet !) to about the elevation of the Camera. It was an amphitheater of death for all of those brave men. This also explains why some men were found “outside” their shelters; that’s because a wind of unimaginable proportion, moving locally upward, lifted their shelters away.

Well thank you and you are very welcome to use whatever of this information you please. I have learned so very much from your site; it contains absolutely the best no-nonsense web coverage of this fire. In the event you wondered, I used to model the effects of wind on the topography surrounding astronomical observatories; but I never had to deal with a surface boundary condition as defined by a wildfire: that adds an order of magnitude of complexity to the simulation. I would like to presume the Feds will realize the importance of contracting a surface topography wind effect model for this fire, as a component of their investigation; If you have any say in the matter I am happy to recommend the best people; it’s not cheap as it requires supercomputer time.

Finally, I needed to relate that I grew up in Prescott; fighting fires was a rite of passage. You would have thought that by now the FS would have developed a weather-topography-fuel load model to deal with this sort of thing.

Well now they will do so.”


In a follow-up message, Mr. Ford wrote:


Yarnell Hill Fire photo texted at 4:04 p.m. by Granite Mountain HS
Yarnell Hill Fire photo texted at 4:04 p.m. by Granite Mountain HS

“For your information, I was able to determine the approximate vantage point of the photo [added above] as looking due East from 34.227291,-112.788630, at an eye elevation of 5,510 feet.

Screen capture from Google Earth.
Screen capture from Google Earth. Approximate location of the previous photo.

This location [above] is just off (east of) the trail on the ridge crest-line, and is located about 0.82 miles Northwest (as the crow flies; longer by trail) of the shelter deploy site (subject of my previous post). Now given the vantage point vector as due East, the plume appears to be moving southeast; thus the fire front (barely visible in the photo) is being driven directly towards Glen ilah.”


Follow-up from Bill:

A comment left on one of our posts by “lone ranger” found an article that included information provided by the National Fire Administration, which is the first I’ve head that they had anything to do with this incident. I would be hesitant to trust this information. The report says the firefighters initially took refuge in a burned area, the black, then left that site and deployed their fire shelters later in another area as they headed toward a ranch which was to be their safety zone.

There continues to be confusion about the times. This may be partly due to the fact that Arizona is not on Daylight Savings Time like most of the United States. They use Mountain STANDARD Time.

A blog called Cliff Mass posted a very clear and detailed explanation of the weather. His last line in the article:

A number of media outlets called the strong winds unpredictable and random. This is not correct, as shown by the information I provided above.

Chuck Bushey told us that once upon a time there were:

…Fire Behavior Service Centers in various regions, warning crews in real time about t-storms (or other events) heading their direction that they couldn’t yet see and getting them into the black. The Southwest use to run a FBSC with a qualified Fire Behavior Analyst (FBAN) but I think they dropped it as did everyone else.