All 19 firefighters killed yesterday in an uncontrollable Arizona wildfire were members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots from the Prescott, Arizona Fire Department. The average age of the crew was 27.
Governor of Arizona Jan Brewer, above, signed a special declaration allocating more state resources to fighting the Yarnell Hill Fire.
Here is what you need to know about this elite unit that lost most of its crew yesterday:
1. They Went into the Blaze This Weekend
The elite crew went into the Yarnell, Arizona, area this weekend to fight the raging 2,000-acre forest fire currently rampaging through central Arizona. The Hotshots set up around the small town of Yarnell, with a population of around 650 and was working to clear easily flammable debris and fuel from the fire’s path when they were over run.
According to KPNX-TV only one member of the Granite Mountain Hotshots survived this weekends blaze. He was reportedly stationed at a lookout location around one mile away when the rest of his crew became trapped by the spreading fire. The bodies of the 19 firefighters who died have been recovered and removed.
Fire Chief Dan Fraijo said today in the live press conference that the names of the 19 men killed will be released at a later time or date in a press briefing. The deaths of the firefighters is still being investigated, he said. Autopsys on the bodies are now underway according to NBC affiliate 12news.
Quick update: The 19th person found in the fire has been confirmed to be a member of the Hotshots. The acreage of the fire is over 9,000 .
— KQNA 1130AM, 99.9FM (@KQNARadio) July 1, 2013
Names of the 19 fallen firefighters will be released later today via press release #YarnellFire
— The Daily Courier (@TheDailyCourier) July 1, 2013
The fire department is currently transporting the 19 bodies back to Prescott, Arizona in 19 white vans escorted by police.
2. They Were So Good Other States Called
It has been a busy season for the Granite Mountain Hotshots. Earlier in May, the crew geared up to fight the wild fire that began in the Dosie Pit Area of the Prescott National Forest. Even before that though, both the Granite Mountain Hotshots and their compatriots Prescott National Forest’s Prescott Hot Shots has just come from fighting fires in New Mexico where they went earlier in May to help out.
3. Only the Most Elite Can be a Hotshot Crew
The Hotshots are like the Navy SEALs of firefighters. Inter-agency Hotshot Crews are groups that specialize in going into fire areas on foot and removing things from their paths that will help prevent the spread and growth of the fire.
The role of the Hotshot is described as:
The name was in reference to being in the hottest part of fires. Their specialty is wildfire suppression, but they are sometimes assigned other jobs, including search and rescue and disaster response assistance. Hotshots not busy fighting fire will also work to meet resource goals on their home units through thinning, prescribed fire implementation, habitat improvement or trail construction projects.
Crews often need to hike many miles to get to the areas where they will be working, carry all of their supplies on their back, and can sometimes work over 12 hours a day.
4. The Granite Mountain Crew Became ‘Hotshots’ in 2008
According to the Prescott Fire Department’s website, the “fuels mitigation crew,” a group specializing in the removal of flammable materials from a fires path, was created at the station in 2002. After that, the group transitioned into Crew 7 in 2004, and was finally accepted into the Hot Shot community in 2008.
5. They were the First Municipal Hotshots Crew
The Arizona City of Prescott was the first municipality to have their own Hotshots crew. They joined the ranks of 112 Hotshot Crews throughout the country, 13 of which are in Arizona. Before the Granite Mountain Hotshots crew, all of the Hotshots were under the jurisdiction of the Federal government through the national Forest Service.
6. They Trained for Two Years
According to the crew’s website, every year, the group undergoes 80 hours of training and refreshing as well as assisting in the training of other crews. They are also trained along side EMS and Technical Rescue.
7. This is the Highest First Responders Causality Incident Since 9/11
This incident and the passing of 19 firefighters, including 18 from the Granite Mountain Hotshots, marks the highest incident of death for first responders since the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 when 340 firemen died.
8. There is a Facebook Memorial Page
The memorial Facebook page, which was created last night, already has over 160,000 likes and numerous comments calling the members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots heroes. The page posted a quote from Justin Tyler, a man who says he has worked with the crew saying:
I worked side by side with the Granite Mountain crew for two weeks last summer on the Wesley Fire in Idaho. During that two weeks I got to know these men in a way that only men can become acquainted on a fireline. Tired, dirty and pushing ourselves to the limits daily we still found time for pleasantries and humor. They were one of the strongest crews I have ever worked with and I will never forget them.
9. They Tried to Shelter Themselves in Fire Tents
Every hotshot member carries a last-resort pop-up fire shelter that can withstand high temperatures and is made of a fire resistant material. According to Mike Reichling of the Arizona State Forestry Division, 19 fire shelters were deployed from the 19 fire fighters in the field, and some of those who died were found still inside their makeshift shelters.
10. The Fire is Still Burning
The fire that took the lives of these brave Hotshots continues to rage around 90 miles from Phoenix, Arizona.
According to local news station 23ABC:
The wildfire is 0 percent contained.
As discussed at today’s live press conference, as of this morning the fire spanned 8374 acres, over 400 personnel are fighting it,and the primary mission of many responders was to retrieve the bodies of the 19 Hotshots. According to the Incident Management Team The estimated number of buildings destroyed is 200.
Update from the #YarnellFire press conference. Currently 8,374 acres, 0% contained, over 400 personel currently fighting the fire
— The Daily Courier (@TheDailyCourier) July 1, 2013