Arizona: The forests northwest of Phoenix are popular with tourists and locals alike. Now tourists and locals are fleeing this popular summer retreat. The Dispatch News Desk (DND) reported.
The local fire department lost an entire crew of 19 fire fighter experts. There are un-confirmed reports from Prescott, that several of the elite Hot Shot team’s fire fighter crew were found dead inside their shelters. One escaped unharmed. One has burns over 75% of his body and died in a hospital. The HotShot crew was one of the most highly-trained fire fighters team in the world.
This is the worst loss of fire fighters since the September 11 World Trade Center terror attack.
Dusty, 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 fire fighters in the U.S. for at least 30 years.
Members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots were forced to deploy their 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.
A Department of Public Safety spokesperson says one of their helicopter pilots was the person who discovered the bodies of the firefighters. Officers are working on a way to remove the bodies. The average age of the men in the hotshot crew was 22 years old, according to the DPS spokesperson.
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 Model Creek, Double A Bar Ranch, and the Buckhorn subdivision, and later on 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.
Wendy Carter was one of those evacuated. “You could see it coming closer and closer, and every time the wind would shift, it would start up another part of it burning,” said Carter. “I was scared; I was scared for [my] animals and grandkids. I just knew we had to get out of there.”
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 fire fighters 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.