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Biggest loss in years. I do not know if it is Arson...
From Huffington Post....
YARNELL, Ariz. — Gusty, hot winds blew an Arizona blaze out of control Sunday in a forest northwest of Phoenix, overtaking and killing 19 members of an elite fire crew in the deadliest wildfire involving firefighters in the U.S. for at least 30 years.
The "hotshot" firefighters were forced to deploy their emergency fire shelters – tent-like structures meant to shield firefighters from flames and heat – when they were caught near the central Arizona town of Yarnell, state forestry spokesman Art Morrison told The Associated Press.
The flames lit up the night sky in the forest above the town, and smoke from the blaze could be smelled for miles.
The fire started after a lightning strike on Friday and spread to 2,000 acres on Sunday amid triple-digit temperatures, low humidity and windy conditions. Officials ordered the evacuations of 50 homes in several communities, and later Sunday afternoon, the Yavapai County Sheriff's Office expanded the order to include more residents in Yarnell, a town of about 700 residents about 85 miles northwest of Phoenix.
Prescott Fire Chief Dan Fraijo said that the 19 firefighters were a part of the city's fire department.
"We grieve for the family. We grieve for the department. We grieve for the city," he said at a news conference Sunday evening. "We're devastated. We just lost 19 of the finest people you'll ever meet."
Hot shot crews are elite firefighters who often hike for miles into the wilderness with chain saws and backpacks filled with heavy gear to build lines of protection between people and fires. They remove brush, trees and anything that might burn in the direction of homes and cities.
The crew killed in the blaze had worked other wildfires in recent weeks in New Mexico and Arizona, Fraijo said.
"By the time they got there, it was moving very quickly," Fraijo told the AP of Sunday's fire.
He added that the firefighters had to deploy the emergency shelters when "something drastic" occurred.
"One of the last fail safe methods that a firefighter can do under those conditions is literally to dig as much as they can down and cover themselves with a protective – kinda looks like a foil type – fire-resistant material – with the desire, the hope at least, is that the fire will burn over the top of them and they can survive it," Fraijo said.
"Under certain conditions there's usually only sometimes a 50 percent chance that they survive," he said. "It's an extreme measure that's taken under the absolute worst conditions."
The National Fire Protection Association had previously listed the deadliest wildland fire involving firefighters as the 1994 Storm King Fire near Glenwood Springs, Colo., which killed 14 firefighters who were overtaken by a sudden explosion of flames.
U.S. wildfire disasters date back more than two centuries and include tragedies like the 1949 Mann Gulch fire near Helena, Mont., that killed 13, or the Rattlesnake blaze four years later that claimed 15 firefighters in Southern California.
"This is as dark a day as I can remember," Gov. Jan Brewer said in a statement. "It may be days or longer before an investigation reveals how this tragedy occurred, but the essence we already know in our hearts: fighting fires is dangerous work."
Morrison said several homes in the community of Glenisle burned on Sunday. He said no other injuries or deaths have been reported from that area.
About 200 firefighters are fighting the wildfire, which has also forced the closure of parts of state Route 89. An additional 130 firefighters and more water- and retardant-dropping helicopters and aircraft are on their way.
Federal help was also being called into to help, Arizona State Forestry Division spokesman Mike Reichling said. The Red Cross has opened two shelters in the area – at Yavapai College in Prescott and at the Wickenburg High School gym.
Prescott, which is more than 30 miles northeast of Yarnell, is one of the only cities in the United States that has a hot shot fire crew, Fraijo said. The unit was established in 2002, and the city also has 75 suppression team members.
U.S. Rep. Paul Gosar, whose district includes Yarnell, shot off a series of tweets Sunday night sending his condolences to those affected. He said his office will remain in contact with emergency responders and would offer help to those who needed it.
Other high profile Arizonans expressed their shock on Twitter, including former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords who called it "absolutely devastating news." U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., tweeted that he was "sick with the news."
Billeaud reported from Phoenix. Associated Press reporter Martin Di Caro in Washington, D.C., also contributed to this story.
Tous pour un, un pour tous
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I worked 29 years in the fire dept. As an urban firefighter, we were assigned structure protection while the camp crews worked the lines. I'm very familiar with the fire shelter. You never ever wanted to be in a position where it came to that. Imagine one of those silver-colored thermal blankets, then imagine trying to unfold it and control it in a fierce wind. If it got away from you, you were SOL. You had to get your hands and feet into little straps then lay face down on the ground while the fire burned through. Even if you felt yourself burning through the shelter, you had to lie there and take it because to lift up was fatal. These guys died a horrible death. Very sad day.
It's a tragedy. No other way to describe it. These "Hot Shots" all died too young. 14 of the 19 that perished were in their 20's and the average age of the firefighters were 22 according to the reports that I heard today on the radio...I'm out here in AZ, so it's a very big news item. There were actually 20 in the crew and the only reason 1 survived is because he was moving the trucks when the fire changed direction and engulfed his comrades. Talk about survivors guilt...I feel very bad for that guy and what he's going to deal with.
There is talk that there was not even enough time for these guys to dig their holes before they went into the "baked potato" drill. That's how fast the fire got to them. Sad. Very sad.
These brave men stepped into hell to save the community. Tragic loss of quality young people. I'm extremely saddened by this.
Apparently these guys were kind of equivalent to Special Forces. They trained that way. I could never be a fireman. I think its absolutely insane to go running into a burning building.
If you ever get the chance, watch the whole special I linked to here.
Its called 9-11 and it is hosted by Robert De Niro. And you get the joy of being with the fire fighters INSIDE THE WORLD TRADE CENTER.
You can see their fear. You can hear the bodies crashing into the buildings.
AND YET THEY WENT IN AND CLIMBED UP ANYWAY AND MANY NEVER CAME BACK!
They used to tell us we were crazy for chasing crooks. But I used to tell them at least a crook can't burn ya down!
God Bless all of them.
And I pray they come home every night.
A little side story. I used to get off everyday to go to work at the World Trade Center. I didn't go into it. I figured it would always be there. I'd explore some other time. I have an NYPD Sweatshirt with a pin that my sister and her husband got for doing volunteer work with the 9-11 survivors. I wear it alot and one day some El Cerrito Fireman saw it and asked me about it. I told them some of the stories that I have told here. The NYPD and the NYFD don't always get along together. But man they share that day ferociously.
It still defies courage that human beings would walk into a burning building.
You can link to the whole special here. Take some time and watch it. Its worth it.
From the 2 hour CBS Special hosted by Robert Dinero
This post was edited by D A Stankovich 9 months ago
My brother in law is a wildland fire fighter. His station is up near Ojai. He loves the fighting fires. It's the car accidents that disturb him.
I always got the feeling from him that he doesn't feel his team is in danger from the fires themselves. It's always heat exhaustion or dehydration or an accident when driving home with no sleep. He's traveled all over the country fighting wildland fires.
Prayers for all those young men and their families.
The bigger the government, the smaller the citizen - Dennis Prager
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