I believe it is fitting that we take a moment to remember 19 brave firefighters

I was shocked to learn of this terrible tragedy this morning.

[B]‘For now, we mourn’: Few answers after 19 killed in Arizona wildfire[/B]

By Erin McClam and Ian Johnston, NBC News

Arizona authorities struggled for answers Monday after 19 highly trained firefighters were trapped and killed by a windblown wildfire — a blaze the governor vowed to stop “before it causes any more heartache.”

One day after the worst loss of life for an American fire department since Sept. 11, investigators said they had not figured out why the men were unable to retreat to a safe zone or otherwise survive the inferno.

“For now, we mourn,” Gov. Jan Brewer said.

The fire, sparked by lightning on Friday, raged uncontrolled for a fourth day. By afternoon it had destroyed more than 200 buildings in Yarnell, a town of about 700 people northwest of Phoenix. It was described as “zero percent” contained.
Advertise | AdChoices

The wildfire claimed all but one member of the Granite Mountain Hotshots, a team of elite firefighters known for extensive training and a demanding fitness regimen. Officials said only that the survivor might have been repositioning equipment.

Wade Ward, the public information officer for the Prescott Fire Department in Arizona, talks about the tragic loss of 19 firefighters in a massive wildfire, saying “it had to be the perfect storm in order for this to happen.”

“We can honor their service with our gratitude and prayers,” Brewer said, “and through our steadfast dedication to do whatever is necessary to bring this fire under control before it causes any more heartache.”

Mary Rasmussen, a spokeswoman for Prescott National Forest, said it appeared the 19 were engaged in a “direct attack” — getting close to the fire and trying to create a break to starve it of fuel.

She described the maneuver as “one foot in the black and one foot in the green,” and said it was only done when the flames were 5 feet high or less: “They’re right up against it.”

The conditions Sunday were extreme, with unusual wind, she said, and authorities were checking what other factors might have contributed. Temperatures soared into the 110s in Arizona over the weekend.

Art Morrison, a state forestry spokesman, told The Associated Press that the men had been forced to deploy emergency fire shelters — individual, portable cocoons meant to protect breathable air and shield them from the heat.

Tom Harbour, national fire director for the U.S. Forest Service, said the shelters had saved hundreds of lives over the years. But he said some fires are strong enough, and move quickly enough, to overwhelm them. The fire was the deadliest wildfire in the United States in 80 years.

From the few known details, he said it was not clear that anyone did anything wrong.

“It’s way, way too early to be drawing any conclusions,” said Harbour, who said he had not seen anything like this fire in his 44-year career. “The only conclusion right now is that souls are dead and half the town of Yarnell is gone.”

Nineteen firefighters - all members of an elite response team - were killed Sunday battling a fast-moving wildfire in Arizona, marking the deadliest single incident for firefighters since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, officials said.

Hotshot fire crews often hike into the wilderness lugging 40 or 50 pounds of equipment, including chain saws and other heavy gear, to clear brush and trees and anything else that might feed the flames.

The Granite Mountain crew had battled blazes in New Mexico and elsewhere in Arizona in recent weeks.

“If you ever met them, you would meet the finest, most dedicated people,” Prescott Fire Chief Dan Fraijo said. “They’ll sleep out there as they try to develop fire lines and put protection between homes and natural resources and still try to remain safe.”

President Barack Obama, in a statement, described the fallen men as “heroes,” and Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer said it was “as dark a day as I can remember.” Arizona Sen. John McCain said the men’s sacrifice would not be forgotten.

Authorities said they would release names of the dead later. Juliann Ashcraft told the website of The Arizona Republic and NBC affiliate KPNX that she and her four children were watching the news when they learned her husband, Andrew, was among the dead.

“They died heroes,” she said through tears. “And we’ll miss them. We love them.”

Several years ago we lost 6 young firefighters in the mountains of Eastern Washington which at the time was terribly heart rending. This is three times worse and now many young children will always remember the 4th of July as when they lost their dads. Let us all say a prayer for all of them right now…

God bless the firemen. RIP smokeaters.

I don’t know why I am so shaken by this horrible event but I think it is the realization that men died in battle who weren’t in the military. Their lives weren’t meant to be lost to win the fight but lost they were.

[B]Arizona firefighters young, dedicated, beloved[/B]

By Andrew Rafferty and Elisha Fieldstadt, NBC News

The 19 firefighters killed in Arizona on Sunday were mostly young men, with ages ranging from 21 to 43.

Many followed in family footsteps when they decided to dedicate their lives to battling deadly blazes.

They were a group known for being tough as nails but with a lighter side that was needed to cope with the demands of the job.

But now, many leave behind wives and children who now understand all too well the sacrifices their loved ones made when they became firefighters. Here are the stories of just some of them.Advertise | AdChoices

Anthony Rose, 23

In just a few months, Rose would have been a father.

His fiancée, Tiffany Hettrick, was due in October, family members told NBC News. The couple lived in Arizona, and Hettrick had been accustomed to her husband-to-be’s being gone doing what he loved.

“He always wanted to be a firefighter, and he was living what he wanted to do. He’s with God now, so he’s OK,” Hettrick’s stepfather, Michael Mooney, told NBC News. “I don’t warm up to too many people too much, but he was a very good guy, and I knew that right away.”

Sean Misner, 26

Like many firefighters, Misner had the job in his blood.

The California native’s uncle and grandfather were firefighters around Santa Barbara, Calif., according to the Santa Barbara Independent.

Misner had been married less than one year, and the couple were expecting their first child soon, the paper reports.

“The devastating loss of nineteen lives in the Arizona wildfire on June 30, 2013, has not only affected the fire service overall, but one of our own Montecito Fire families,” the Montecito Fire Protection District announced Monday. “We send our heartfelt condolences to all the families who lost loved ones in this tragedy."

Christopher MacKenzie, 30

The son of a firefighter, MacKenzie lived life to the fullest, friends say. He was an avid snowboarder who always wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps.

He grew up in California’s San Jacinto Valley and became a member of the town’s fire department. He hurt his leg during the first week on the job and ended up in the hospital, only emerging more determined than ever to spend his life battling intense blazes, his mother said.

“I was very proud of him. Yeah, he was a good kid, and he’s gonna be so missed,” said Laurie Goralski, MacKenzie’s mother.

Kevin Woyjeck, 21

Woyjeck’s goal was to one day join the Los Angeles County Fire Department, just like his dad, Joe Woyjeck.

“We’re a giant family. Any firefighter lost throughout the country is one of us. We’re all a big family,” Keith Mora, L.A. County fire inspector, told reporters.

The Southern California man began his short career as a member of the Fire Explorers, a mentorship program for young men and women who wanted to become firefighters, according to NBC Los Angeles.

“He was doing everything he could to become a professional firefighter – he had an extreme work ethic,” Mora told NBC Los Angeles. “He was a great, great kid. I say kid, but he was a young man at 21 years old.”

Andrew Ashcraft, 29

Ashcraft leaves behind a wife and four children, none of whom is older than 6.

Friend Jenaniene Brown remembered him as a “good husband, good, devoted family man.” She knew Ashcraft through her husband and said the firefighter was always quick to help.

How sad I am at their tragic loss. I pray that their deaths were due to lack of oxygen rather than by flame. I pray that they weren’t burned alive.

You’ve posted a beautifully heartfelt tribute to them, Sir.

Yarnell gets added to the list of sorrow that includes such fires as Mann Gulch, Storm King, and the Dude Fire…sad day for all past and present wildland fire fighters…I am surprised that they were working direct in such big fuels, and wonder how they ended up compromising their LCES…I hope the one person not listed makes it through physically and mentally…this would be a good time to send a few bucks to the Wildland Firefighters Foundation…

Former IA Engine Boss
Dozer Boss

I wonder why they were not able to get an air tanker to do a drop on top of them?

[B]Portable shelters couldn’t save 19 firefighters[/B]
Associated Press

PRESCOTT, Ariz. (AP) — In a heartbreaking sight, a long line of vans from a coroner’s office carried the bodies of 19 elite firefighters out of the tiny mountain town of Yarnell on Monday, as the wind-driven wildfire that claimed the men’s lives burned out of control.

About 200 more firefighters arrived to the scorching mountains, doubling the number of firefighters battling the blaze, ignited by lightning.

Many of them were wildfire specialists like the 19 fatally trapped Sunday — a group of firefighters known as Hotshots called to face the nation’s fiercest wildfires.

With no way out, the Prescott-based crew did what they were trained to do: They unfurled their foil-lined, heat-resistant tarps and rushed to cover themselves. But that last, desperate line of defense couldn’t save them.

The deaths of the Granite Mountain Hotshots marked the nation’s biggest loss of firefighters in a wildfire in 80 years. Only one member of the 20-person crew survived, and that was because he was moving the unit’s truck at the time.

Arizona’s governor called it “as dark a day as I can remember” and ordered flags flown at half-staff.

“I know that it is unbearable for many of you, but it also is unbearable for me. I know the pain that everyone is trying to overcome and deal with today,” said Gov. Jan Brewer, her voice catching several times as she addressed reporters and residents at Prescott High School in the town of 40,000.

President Barack Obama called Brewer on Monday from Africa and reinforced his commitment to providing necessary federal support to battle the fire that spread to 13 square miles after destroying 50 homes. More than 200 homes were threatened in the town of 700 people.

Obama also offered his administration’s help to state officials investigating the tragedy, and predicted it will force government leaders to answer broader questions about how they handle increasingly destructive and deadly wildfires.

Brewer said the blaze “exploded into a firestorm” that overran the crew.

The blaze grew from 200 acres to about 2,000 in a matter of hours.

Southwest incident team leader Clay Templin said the crew and its commanders were following safety protocols, and it appears the fire’s erratic nature simply overwhelmed them.

The Hotshot team had spent recent weeks fighting fires in New Mexico and Prescott before being called to Yarnell, entering the smoky wilderness over the weekend with backpacks, chainsaws and other heavy gear to remove brush and trees as a heat wave across the Southwest sent temperatures into the triple digits.

Prescott Fire Chief Dan Fraijo said he feared the worst when he received a call Sunday afternoon from someone assigned to the fire.

“All he said was, ‘We might have bad news. The entire Hotshot crew deployed their shelters,’” Fraijo said. “When we talk about deploying the shelters, that’s an automatic fear, absolutely. That’s a last-ditch effort to save yourself when you deploy your shelter.”

Arizona Forestry Division spokesman Mike Reichling said all 19 victims had deployed their emergency shelters as they were trained to do.

As a last resort, firefighters are supposed to step into the shelters, lie face down on the ground and pull the fire-resistant fabric completely over themselves. The shelter is designed to reflect heat and trap cool, breathable air inside for a few minutes while a wildfire burns over a person.

But its success depends on firefighters being in a cleared area away from fuels and not in the direct path of a raging inferno of heat and hot gases.

The glue holding the layers of the shelter together begins to come apart at about 500 degrees, well above the 300 degrees that would almost immediately kill a person.

“It’ll protect you, but only for a short amount of time. If the fire quickly burns over you, you’ll probably survive that,” said Prescott Fire Capt. Jeff Knotek. But “if it burns intensely for any amount of time while you’re in that thing, there’s nothing that’s going to save you from that.”

Fire officials gave no further details about the shelters being deployed. The bodies were taken to Phoenix for autopsies to determine exactly how the firefighters died.

The U.S. has 110 Hotshot crews, according to the U.S. Forest Service website. They typically have about 20 members each and go through specialized training.

Many of those killed were graduates of Prescott High, including 28-year-old Clayton Whitted, who as a firefighter would work out on the same campus where he played football for the Prescott Badgers from 2000 to 2004.

The school’s football coach, Lou Beneitone, said Whitted was the type of athlete who “worked his fanny off.”

“He wasn’t a big kid, and many times in the game, he was overpowered by big men, and he still got after it. He knew, ‘This man in front of me is a lot bigger and stronger than me,’ but he’d try it and he’d smile trying it,” Beneitone said.

He and Whitted had talked a few months ago about how this year’s fire season could be a “rough one.”

“I shook his hand, gave him a hug, and said, ‘Be safe out there,’” Beneitone recalled. “He said, ‘I will, Coach.’”

Hundreds of people were evacuated from the Yarnell area. In addition to the flames, downed power lines and exploding propane tanks continued to threaten what was left of the town, said fire information officer Steve Skurja. A light rain fell over the area but did little to slow the fire.

“It’s a very hazardous situation right now,” Skurja said.

Arizona is in the midst of a historic drought that has left large parts of the state highly flammable…"

“Until we get a significant showing of the monsoons, it’s showtime, and it’s dangerous, really dangerous,” incident commander Roy Hall said.

The National Fire Protection Association website lists the last wildfire to kill more firefighters as the 1933 Griffith Park blaze in Los Angeles, which killed 29. The biggest loss of firefighters in U.S. history was 343, killed in the 9/11 attack on New York.

In 1994, the Storm King Fire near Glenwood Springs, Colo., killed 14 firefighters who were overtaken by an explosion of flames.

A makeshift memorial of flower bouquets and American flags formed at the Prescott fire station where the crew was based.

More than 1,000 people turned out Monday to a gym at the Prescott campus of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University to honor those killed.

At the end of the ceremony, dozens of wildfire fighters sporting Hotshot shirts and uniforms from other jurisdictions marched down the bleachers to the front of the auditorium, their heavy work boots drumming a march on the wooden steps.

They bowed their heads for a moment of silence in memory of their fallen comrades as slides bearing each man’s name and age were projected behind them.

“little things suddenly and literally can become big as hell, the ordinary can suddenly become monstrous, and the upgulch breezes can suddenly turn to murder” - From Norman Maclean book “Young Men and Fire”

Young Men and Fire a book about the Mann Gulch fire which killed 13 firefighters

And if your into urban firefighting don’t miss “Report From Engine Company 82” by Dennis Smith!

Norman’s son John has also written about fire, Storm King in particular…to get an glimpse into Hot Shot work check out the Nova special Fire Wars from a few years back. The Wildland Firefighters Foundation is doing a Granite IHC T-shirt fund raiser for those interested in helping the families and the one surviving crew member.

[QUOTE=mtskier;114057]Norman’s son John has also written about fire, Storm King in particular…to get an glimpse into Hot Shot work check out the Nova special Fire Wars from a few years back. The Wildland Firefighters Foundation is doing a Granite IHC T-shirt fund raiser for those interested in helping the families and the one surviving crew member.[/QUOTE]

Do you have a link to the fundraiser?

Almost three years ago. Our prayers are still with you. We all hope your families, children, and friends have a safe upcoming holiday.