Arizona fires: In the deadliest such tragedy for 30 years, 19 firefighters died battling a fire near the town of Yarnell, about 80 miles northwest of Phoenix, Arizona, over the June 30 weekend.
It is believed lightning ignited the blaze which spread rapidly, aided by ample fuel and, low humidity and strong winds. The elite “hotshot” crew of 20 men, based in Prescot, were attempting to create a line clear of vegetation at least 10 feet wide, known as a firebreak. These breaks act as buffer zone, containing a fire to one area preventing it from reaching houses.
Exact circumstances are still unclear but a sudden change in wind direction may have blocked the men’s escape route, allowing the fire to overwhelm them.
All nineteen appear to have deployed their personal fire shelters, but the fire’s speed and intensity was too great. Arizona State Forestry Division spokesman Mike Reichling said some of the Prescott-based crew were found outside of their shelters.
An estimated 200 homes were destroyed in the blaze which burned through Sunday night.