(July 1, 2013) - The Yarnell Hill Fire started Friday with a lightning strike.
Currently, it’s estimated at 8,000 acres. It is 0% contained.
Among the 350 fire fighters assigned to fight the fire were 19 members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots, an elite wildland fire fighting crew who work for the Prescott Fire Department.
Note: GMH is the only “hotshot” crew in the U.S. organized through a city fire department. GMH earned its national interagency hotshot designation in 2008.
Reportedly, one member of the GMH crew was away from the team – possibly moving the crew’s vehicles – when the fire began to shift direction. That crew member survived the blaze.
The death toll includes 18 members of the GMH and one fire fighter whose affiliation has not been identified.
Early reports say that it was a shift in the direction of the wind that trapped the fire fighters. They reportedly used their emergency shelters against the blaze, but they were identified as KIA early Sunday night.
The fire fighters’ families have all been notified, according to the PFD.
The Professional Fire Fighters of Arizona, which represents more than 6,500 fire fighters statewide, has established a presence in the area and is working to get resources to the PFD and the families of the fallen – including grief counseling and additional manpower to fight the blaze.