Arizona suffered a devastating loss yesterday. Nineteen firefighters from the elite Granite Mountain Hotshots of Prescott, died Sunday fighting an out-of-control wildfire in Yarnell, a tiny Yavapai County town roughly 80 miles northwest of Phoenix.
About half of the town’s 500 homes were feared destroyed by the blaze, which began early Friday evening and had spread to 8,374 acres by early Monday. All of Yarnell and the neighboring Peeples Valley were evacuated. Fire crews reported no containment as of Monday morning (1-Jul-2013).
The National Fire Protection Association website lists the last wildland fire to kill more firefighters as the 1933 Griffith Park fire of Los Angeles, which killed 29. The most firefighters — 340 — were killed in the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York.
The Granite Mountain Hotshots, established in 2002, were an elite ground firefighting crew known for their innovative problem-solving and history of safe, aggressive fire suppression.
Members of the crew were highly trained, came from diverse backgrounds, and worked long hours in extreme environmental conditions doing the most demanding of fireline tasks.
According to The Daily Courier…
- They carried 50-70 pounds on their back, hiked seven miles or more to where they needed to work, and worked up to 14 hours, sometimes longer.
- The average age of the men in the hotshot crew was 27-years-old.
- “They have to be ready to leave for an assignment on two hours’ notice, which sometimes means missing family events,”Wade Ward of the Prescott FD said last week. “They have to be prepared to be on that assignment for 21 days, get two days rest at home, and possibly be sent out on another 21-day assignment.”
Prior to the Yarnell Hill fire which took nearly all of their lives, the team had just returned from a wildfire in New Mexico.
Just one week ago, the same crew also led the charge against the massive Doce fire in the Prescott National Forest.
We’d like to take a moment to extend our condolences to the elite fallen firefighters, their families, the cities of Yarnell and Prescott and the entire firefighter nation. Words can never adequately express the gratitude we have for all first responders who sacrifice so much to help keep us safe. Our thoughts and prayers are with all those impacted by this and other wildfires ravaging the nation. Bill & Janet Liebsch, FedHealth, Tucson AZ