Quantcast
Latest Stories

Raging US wildfire engulfs 19 firefighters


Bob Hoskovec says a prayer as he kneels outside the gate of the Granite Mountain Interagency Hot Shot Crew fire station, Monday, July 1, 2013, in Prescott, Arizona. An out-of-control blaze overtook the elite group of firefighters trained to battle the fiercest wildfires, killing 19 members as they tried to protect themselves from the flames under fire-resistant shields. The disaster Sunday afternoon all but wiped out the 20-member Hotshot fire crew leaving the city’s fire department reeling. AP PHOTO/JULIE JACOBSON

LOS ANGELES—Firefighters struggled to contain a runaway wildfire in the US state of Arizona Monday after 19 of their comrades were killed in one of the worst such incidents in US history and two towns were evacuated.

The firefighters died while racing to contain the Yarnell Hill wildfire about 85 miles (135 kilometers) north of Phoenix, in what Arizona governor Jan Brewer called “as dark a day as I can remember.”

The deadly blaze came amid baking temperatures and tinder-dry conditions across the US southwest, with records broken over the weekend in Arizona and California, and follows an already deadly wildfire season across the region.

President Barack Obama paid tribute to those who lost their lives, in a statement issued while traveling in South Africa which lamented “this terrible tragedy.”

“They were heroes—highly skilled professionals who, like so many across our country do every day, selflessly put themselves in harm’s way to protect the lives and property of fellow citizens they would never meet.”

Ignited by lightning

The Yarnell Hill fire, believed to have been ignited by lightning and fanned by high winds, broke out Friday and has swept across 2,000 acres, spreading rapidly through the dry, forested area.

Officials said that the incident was under investigation but that the firefighters appeared to have deployed fire shelters—last-ditch protection equipment— just before they were engulfed in flames.

“It’s not reality for us, it hasn’t really set in,” Wade Ward, a visibly shocked Prescott Fire Department spokesman, told CNN early Monday.

“It’s a very elite group of people who are highly trained, highly motivated, very fit… We don’t know what happened.”

Hundreds of residents of Yarnell and Peeples Valley were, meanwhile, evacuated, officials said on a fire alert website, as the blaze continued to tear through the area.

Prescott Fire Chief Dan Fraijo had earlier said he was “devastated” by the loss of lives.

“We just lost 19 of some of the finest people you will ever meet,” he said at a press conference Sunday. “We take safety precautions, but sometimes, unfortunately, sometimes it just doesn’t work out.”

 

Worst firefighter fatalities since 1933

Figures from the National Fire Protection Association, a non-profit organization, show that the Arizona deaths are the worst firefighter fatalities from a wildfire since 29 firefighters died fighting a blaze in Los Angeles’ Griffith Park in 1933.

Sunday’s deaths also mark the largest loss of firefighter lives on US soil since the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center, when 340 firefighters were killed, according to NFPA statistics.

Federal help was set to arrive on Monday, local news site the Arizona Republic reported, but officials expected at least 250 homes—about half the town of Yarnell—would be destroyed by the inferno.

“This is as dark a day as I can remember,” said Arizona governor Jan Brewer, as tributes poured in for the fallen firefighters.

Speaking to a local NBC affiliate Sunday, she added: “When we get these drought areas, sometimes it dries out, it just burns so quickly and so fast and tonight is another example of that.

“I guess it was a flash fire and it just turned around and it overcame them all. It was just one big swoop,” she told KPNX-TV.

A state forestry official told CNN the firefighters, from an elite local “hotshot” crew, had been digging a fire line to contain the blaze.

“Evidently, their safety zone wasn’t big enough, and the fire just overtook them,” Art Morrison said.

Facebook page for fallen firefighters

A Facebook page has been created in memory of the fallen firefighters, showing a picture of the Granite Mountain Hotshots crew from Prescott, Arizona, with 19 people in the photo.

“This devastating loss is a reminder of the grave risks our firefighters take every day on our behalf in Arizona and in communities across this nation. Their sacrifice will never be forgotten,” Arizona Senator John McCain said in a statement.

The Yarnell Hill wildfire is the worst of several blazes raging across the arid state and comes two weeks after a blaze in Colorado killed two people and burned down 360 homes, that western state’s most destructive blaze ever.

Record and near-record temperatures left much of the US southwest sweltering over the weekend, with Death Valley in California equaling the hottest ever June temperature in the United States, at 128 degrees Fahrenheit (53 Celsius).

The wildfire season in the southwest flared up earlier than usual this year, with California, Arizona and New Mexico the hardest hit.

As of Monday, there were over 40 active blazes in the four states, according to the inciweb fire information website.—Michael Thurston


Follow Us

Follow us on Facebook Follow on Twitter Follow on Twitter


Recent Stories:

Complete stories on our Digital Edition newsstand for tablets, netbooks and mobile phones; 14-issue free trial. About to step out? Get breaking alerts on your mobile.phone. Text ON INQ BREAKING to 4467, for Globe, Smart and Sun subscribers in the Philippines.

Tags: Arizona , firefighters , toll , US , wildfire




Copyright © 2014, .
To subscribe to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, call +63 2 896-6000 for Metro Manila and Metro Cebu or email your subscription request here.
Factual errors? Contact the Philippine Daily Inquirer's day desk. Believe this article violates journalistic ethics? Contact the Inquirer's Reader's Advocate. Or write The Readers' Advocate:
c/o Philippine Daily Inquirer Chino Roces Avenue corner Yague and Mascardo Streets, Makati City, Metro Manila, Philippines Or fax nos. +63 2 8974793 to 94
Advertisement
  1. Estrada: Gigi Reyes won’t testify vs JPE
  2. Cagayan mayor shot dead after flag-raising ceremony
  3. Obama, family cause a small stir at Easter service
  4. Santiago sees Palace hand in Gigi’s return
  5. ‘Malang’ next crocodile attraction after ‘Lolong’
  6. Gigi Reyes’ only option: tell all
  7. Malaysia Airlines jet turns back after tire burst
  8. Ancient enigmatic carvings in danger of disappearing
  9. New plant to boost supply of clean energy
  10. More bodies from ship; transcript reveals wavering
  1. Kim Henares needs a reprimand, says Cayetano
  2. Suspect in Vhong Navarro mauling tries to leave PH
  3. More legal woes for Cedric Lee
  4. Enrile chief aide back in PH ‘to face charges’
  5. ‘No real progress in PH if dynasties not dismantled’
  6. Henares on Pacquiao bashing: I did not start this
  7. ‘Mom, I love you,’ says text from student on sinking ferry
  8. Massive infra spending set
  9. Fr. Suarez says last Mass on Easter before returning donated land to San Miguel
  10. I’ll follow my conscience on Estrada, says JV Ejercito
  1. KL confirms Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 ended in Indian Ocean
  2. MRT passengers pass the hat for 6-year-old Ashley
  3. Rookie, lady cops lauded for quick response to MOA heist
  4. Malaysia averts another air tragedy; pilot lands troubled plane safely
  5. Revilla says he was joking; Lacson stands by his story
  6. Revilla ‘consulted’ Lacson on how he evaded arrest
  7. Cudia, dismissed for lying, got 99% in conduct
  8. Police rule out foul play in Helena Belmonte’s death as boyfriend is ‘traumatized’
  9. Kim Henares needs a reprimand, says Cayetano
  10. Hammer-wielding robbers cause chaos at Philippines’ Mall of Asia
Advertisement

News

  • Bernice Lee arrested by NBI team
  • Group: Bataan cop killed to stop him from exposing colleagues linked to drug ring
  • Chemical Engineer licensure examination
  • Troubled history fuels Japan-China tension
  • Palace: Our concern is to ensure MRT runs smoothly
  • Sports

  • NLEX fights off Derulo Accelero to remain unbeaten
  • Mayweather diehard Bieber eats pride, poses with Pacquiao for photo op
  • Power Pinays rip Singapore to enter quarters in Asian volley tilt
  • PBA D-League: Waves edge skidding Superchargers
  • Ilad’s last-second basket lifts Gems over Bakers
  • Lifestyle

  • Miss America: Don’t suspend teen over prom invite
  • Transitions and resurrection in the performing arts
  • ‘Archaeology tour’ of Cebu’s heritage of faith
  • Historic Fort Bonifacio tunnel converted into a septic tank
  • ‘Imports’ from London, and play of the year
  • Entertainment

  • Arrest warrants out vs. Deniece Cornejo, Cedric Lee, et al over serious illegal detention
  • Lindsay Lohan says she had a miscarriage
  • Discovery network cancels Everest jump
  • ‘Captain America’ stays strong atop US box office
  • Easter musings
  • Business

  • Century Pacific Food sets IPO price at P13.75 per share
  • Oil prices down in quiet Asian trade
  • Asian shares mixed in holiday-thinned trade
  • BDO seen keen on bidding for Cocobank
  • Bataan freeport investment pledges up 1,302%
  • Technology

  • PH has slowest internet in Southeast Asia
  • Nintendo’s trailblazing Game Boy marks 25th anniversary
  • Nasa’s moon-orbiting robot crashes down
  • Netizens pay respects to Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  • Nokia recalls 30,000 chargers for Lumia 2520 tablet
  • Opinion

  • Gigi’s home
  • Palace stonewalls on MRT inquiry
  • Couple of things too
  • There is plenty of water behind Wawa Dam
  • Triduum thoughts of a young boy
  • Global Nation

  • Balikatan could spoil peace talks, says militant group
  • DFA officers hold workshop on aiding human traffic victims
  • Canada in communication with PH on toxic wastes
  • Filipinos in Middle East urged not to panic amid MERS-CoV scare
  • Obama on mission to quiet Asia skeptics
  • Marketplace
    Advertisement