Multiple firefighter fatalities on the Yarnell Fire in Arizona

(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)

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(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.

19 Granite Mountain Hotshots

The incident management team has posted hundreds of photos of the memorial service, the procession, and the planning.

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(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An article in the LA Times has some previously unpublished information about the last moments of the Granite Mountain 19.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.

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An Associated Press article provides some information about the autopsies of the firefighters:

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.

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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.

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(UPDATED at 7 p.m. MDT, July 3, 2013)

(Information about the Yarnell Hill Fire itself is in our main article about the fire. This one is devoted to the 19 firefighters that died.)

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.

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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 100 Club has raised approximately $500,000.
  • The Wildland Firefighters Foundation (52 Club) has raised approximately $120,000.
  • 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.

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Residents of Yarnell can obtain updates on the status of their property by calling the County Emergency Operations Center at 928-777-7481.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 )

Radar at 5 pm MDT, June 30, 2013 The pointer is at Yarnell, Arizona.
Radar at 4 pm MST, June 30, 2013. The pointer is at Yarnell, Arizona. The thunderstorm was moving toward the southwest. Radar image from WeatherUnderground.

Continue reading “Multiple firefighter fatalities on the Yarnell Fire in Arizona”

Arizona: Yarnell Hill Fire

(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.)

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(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 Sheriff’s Office at 928-427-6475.

We have more information about the deaths of the 19 firefighters and the weather that appeared to be a factor in the tragedy.

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(UPDATE at 7:30 p.m. MDT, July 3, 2013)

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.

map of Yarnell Hill Fire, July 3, 2013
IMTeam map of Yarnell Hill Fire, July 3, 2013

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.

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(UPDATE at 7:50 a.m. MDT, July 3, 2013)

Map of Yarnell Fire, July 2, 2013
Map of Yarnell Hill Fire, July 2, 2013. The source of the perimeter data was a GPS device.

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.

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(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.

Map of Yarnell Fire, July 2, 2013,
Map of Yarnell Fire, July 2, 2013, showing the approximate perimeter of the fire. Provided by GEOMAC
Map of Yarnell Fire, July 2, 2013
Map of Yarnell Hill Fire, showing the approximate location of the fire perimeter at 1 a.m. MDT, July 2, 2013.
This map of the Yarnell Fire was used in a public meeting July 2, 2013. The time that the data was acquired, is not known; it may have been prepared before the updated data in the other two maps above was obtained.
This map of the Yarnell Hill Fire was used in a public meeting July 2, 2013. The time that the data was acquired is not known; the map may have been prepared before the updated data in the other two maps above was obtained.

The Yarnell Hill Fire was less active Monday than it was on Sunday when it rapidly overran the position of the Granite Mountain Hotshots, killing 19. (More information about the fatalities.)

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.

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(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.

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(UPDATE at 1:46 p.m. MDT, July 1, 2013)

3-D map of Yarnell Fire at 3:10 a.m. MDT, July 1, 2013
3-D map of Yarnell Fire at 3:10 a.m. MDT, July 1, 2013
Map of Yarnell Fire at 3:10 a.m. MDT, July 1, 2013
Map of Yarnell Fire at 3:10 a.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.

IMTeam's map of Yarnell Fire, July 1, 2013
Incident Management Team’s map of Yarnell Fire, July 1, 2013. The city of Yarnell is just to the left, or west, of where it says “DIV Z”.

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”

Doce Fire — west of Prescott

(UPDATE at 2:20 p.m. MDT, June 19, 2013)

Map of Doce Fire at 11 p.m. MDT, June 18, 2013
Map of Doce Fire at 11 p.m. MDT, June 18, 2013. (click to enlarge)

The map of the Doce Fire above shows the perimeter (in red) at 11 p.m. MDT Tuesday night.

More information is at Facebook and the very unreliable InciWeb.

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(UPDATE at 9:15 a.m. MDT, June 19, 2013)

The Arizona Emergency Information Network (AZEIN) reports that the Doce Fire has burned 7,000 acres and is zero percent contained.

Below is evacuation information from the AZEIN. For the most current evacuation information, check their site.

Evacuated: Granite Basin Homes, Sundown Acres, Old Stage Acres, south half of Mint Creek, and American Ranch.

On notice for potential evacuation: neighborhoods in Williamson Valley

(There is an evacuation center at Yavapai College. Livestock should be taken to the Prescott Rodeo Grounds)

The AZEIN reported at 7:38 a.m. Wednesday:

The fire was active overnight on the northeast corner by the Williamson Valley Corridor and on the southwest corner by Granite Mountain Wilderness. No structures have been lost and no injuries have occurred.

Continue reading “Doce Fire — west of Prescott”

Another Fuels and Fire Behavior Advisory — this time, Arizona and New Mexico

Fuels and fire behavior advisoriesOne of the Predictive Services offices has issued another Fuels and Fire Behavior Advisory. The last one, issued June 10, was for California. This new one, dated June 16, is for portions of Arizona and New Mexico.

The advisory does not mention the “Southwest Monsoon,” an event that typically starts in early July and generally begins to draw the curtain on the fire season in Arizona, New Mexico, West Texas, southern Utah and southwestern Colorado.

Below is the full text of the advisory.

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“Fuels and Fire Behavior AdvisoryPredictive Services

Arizona and New Mexico

June 16, 2013

Subject: Persistent multi-year drought across much of New Mexico and Arizona has dropped fuel moistures to critically low levels in the large dead and live foliar fuels. These critically low fuel moistures increase available fuel loading which contributes to and supports active crown fire in timber fuels when critical fire weather is present.

Discussion: The multi-year drought has reduced the fine fuel loading across most of the region so the focus for this advisory will be the timber fuels within the region.

Difference from normal conditions: Drought creates more available fuel in timber fuel types which will increase fire intensities, crown fire potential and difficulty of control for fire suppression resources. Short duration rain events provide only short term fuel moisture improvement in timber litter fuels (1, 10, and 100 hour dead fuels). Fuels rebound quickly to previous dryness levels. Short duration rain events provide no fuel moisture recovery in large dead and live foliar fuels.

Concerns to Firefighters and the Public:

  • Surface fire will quickly transition to crown fire and only requires low to moderate surface fire intensity to transition.
  • Active/running crown fire has produced long range spotting up to one mile under the influence of an unstable atmosphere.
  • Active fire behavior can extend well into night and early morning hours even with moderate RH recovery.
  • Thunderstorm activity will create a mosaic pattern of surface fuel moistures. Surface fire intensity and fire behavior may change abruptly when fires cross these boundaries of moist and dry surface fuels.

Mitigation Measures:

  • Local briefings need to be thorough and highlight specific fire environment conditions. These include but are not limited to local weather forecasts, Pocket Cards, ERC’s, live and dead fuel moistures, and special fuel conditions such as drought and insect mortality
  • Lookouts, both on the ground and in the air, can help identify the initiation and location of crown fire. They can also provide the location of resultant spot fires from active crown fire.
  • Firefighters should acknowledge that fire growth and fire behavior they encounter this year may exceed anything they have experienced before due to the drought factor. Normal strategies and tactics may need to be adjusted to account for the drought factor.

Area of Concern: Please reference the map posted on the National Fuel Advisory Page.

http://www.predictiveservices.nifc.gov/fuels_fire-danger/fuels_fire-danger.htm

The timber fuels within this area of concern are the target for this fire behavior advisory.”

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(End of text)

 

Thanks go out to Ken

Wildfire briefing, June 17, 2013

The worst wildfires

The Mother Nature Network has assembled what they call “10 of the Worst Wildfires in U.S. History”. Check it out to see if you agree with their list.

Furloughs cancelled for NWS

As wildfire season heats up the National Weather Service has cancelled their plans to force their employees to take four days off without pay before September 30. While a memo to all 12,000 NWS employees did not mention fire weather forecasts or Incident Meteorologists, it did refer to the tornadoes that plowed through Midwestern states last month. The Las Cruces Sun-News has more details.

Photos and videos of the 747 Supertanker, and a new CWN contract for the 20,000-gallon beast

Fire Aviation has some photos and videos of Evergreen’s 747 Supertanker that is receiving a new call when needed contract from the U.S. Forest Service. When you see the two photos of the 747 dropping on a fire in Mexico, compare them to this photo of a P2V dropping on a fire in the San Diego area Monday.

Denver post on the shortage of air tankers

The Denver Post has an article about the shortage of large air tankers in the United States and how that may have affected the early stages of the recent fires in Colorado. They also quote a very reliable source about the number of Unable to Fill (UTF) requests for air tankers.

Aspen Fire on Mount Lemmon, 10 years ago

It was 10 years ago today that the Aspen Fire ripped across the top of Mount Lemmon in Arizona, destroying nearly 340 homes and burning 84,000 acres.

Birds start fires in California and Nevada

A deluded conspiracy theorist might assume that terrorists have trained birds to fly into power lines and start fires, since over the last two days it happened in Chico, California and in Reno, Nevada. But in spite of the tin foil hat I’m wearing, I don’t think this quite meets the threshold for our Animal Arson series, since it is fairly common.

Soldier Basin Fire, southern Arizona

Soldier Basin Fire

We ran across some photos of the Soldier Basin Fire that burned 10,775 acres in southern Arizona six miles north of the U.S./Mexico border near Nogales, Mexico. It started May 17 and by Saturday May 25 had been 75 percent contained and turned over to the Coronado National Forest’s Sierra Vista Ranger District.

Soldier Basin Fire

All of the photos are from InciWeb and are uncredited.

Soldier Basin Fire

Soldier Basin Fire

Soldier Basin Fire

Soldier Basin Fire
Aerial ignition with a Plastic Sphere Dispenser.