A seemingly standard wild fire, which started after lighting stuck dry brush in Yarnell Arizona, has now led to national tragedy after 19 firefighters were killed by the overwhelming blaze. 18 of the firefighters belonged to the Prescott Granite Mountain “Hotshots” crew. The 19th victim has yet to be identified. The average age of firefighter killed was 22.
The Hotshot crew lost 18 of its 20 members after the fire quickly shifted onto their basecamp. As a last act of defense, the firefighters deployed their emergency fire-protective tents. These tents were either ineffective or not deployed in time, as they failed to save the men from the intense heat and flame. The remains of the firefighters were found both inside, and nearby the tents showcasing just how quickly the flames assaulted them.
Prescott Fire Chief, Dan Fraijo could not yet release the names of those killed, but offered the same sentiments of remorse and bewilderment that have swept the nation regarding this event.
"We're devastated," Fraijo said. "We just lost 19 of the finest people you'll ever meet."
Fraijo also clarified on the protective tents that failed to save the firefighters. According to him, these tents are meant for desperation moments only. Fraijo said, "One of the last fail-safe methods that a firefighter can do under those conditions is literally to dig as much as they can down and cover themselves with a protective -- kinda looks like a foil type -- fire-resistant material -- with the desire, the hope at least, is that the fire will burn over the top of them and they can survive it."
Not since the early 20th century have so many firefighters been killed battling a wildfire in the U.S. This is the greatest loss of life since 340 firefights perished on September 11th, 2001.
Numerous officials have also shared their condolences for the firefighters and their families. An investigation of the event is expected, but it’s unlikely to yield much info; firefighting is dangerous, and when a towering inferno takes hold on a team’s position, there isn’t always much anyone can do to survive.
Fellow firefighters in the area will need to wait to grieve, as the fire which claimed most of the Hotshot crew is still active and growing by the day. There is little doubt that the fallen firefighters would wish nothing more than for their brothers on the force to take out the flame before it can do more harm.