Information in this article courtesy of ABC News.
PRESCOTT, Ariz. — A report has been released on the investigation into the deaths of 19 firefighters who perished fighting a wildfire in Arizona this summer. The full report can be found here, courtesy of ABC 15 News.
The Arizona Division of Forestry released a report on Saturday on the Yarnell Hill Fire that killed 19 firefighters in June. The 116 page report on the Yarnell Fire in Arizona in June found a number of problems that could have prevented the deaths of the 19 men who were battling the blaze.
The report cited technical problems with the firefighters’ radios, poor communications between the men and their support staff away from the fire scene, and vague updates that prevented an air tanker carrying flame retardant from helping the victims.
Investigators also said the extreme heat and heavy brush contributed to the intense flames that overcame the men as they battled the blaze surrounding. The report was provided to the families of the firefighters before the findings were disclosed to the public.
A local firefighter who worked on the Yarnell Hill Fire after the incident says there was likely nothing teams could have done to protect those firefighters.
“We do our best to try to teach folks. We do our best to try and mentor folks, but there are just some times where you get in those situations and essentially Mother Nature gets the best of you,” explained Bureau of Land Management PIO, Jim Whittington.
Jim Whittington served on the Yarnell Hill Fire right after the tragedy occurred. He says all of the decisions outlined in the report made sense given the information at the time.
The hotshot crew apparently found themselves trapped because the fire made a sudden, ninety-degree shift in direction, driven by winds exceeding fifty miles an hour in places.
Those firefighters were among about 30 deaths from wildfires across the country. Whittington says it’s nearly unprecedented to see that many deaths in a season. The Yarnell Fire destroyed more than 100 homes and burned 13 square miles before it was fully contained on July 10th.