Hotshot firefighting crew experienced radio problems in deadly Arizona blaze, investigation finds
Yarnell Arizona Fire Department loses 19 firefighters
PRESCOTT, Ariz. A three-month investigation into the June deaths of 19 firefighters killed while battling an Arizona blaze cites poor communication between the men and support staff, and reveals that an airtanker carrying flame retardant was hovering overhead as the firefighters died.
The 120-page report released Saturday found that proper procedure was followed and assigned little of blame for the worst firefighting tragedy since Sept. 11, 2001.
All but one member of the Granite Mountain Hotshots crew died June 30 while protecting the small former gold rush town of Yarnell, about 80 miles northwest of Phoenix, from an erratic, lightning-sparked wildfire.
While maintaining a neutral tone, the investigation found badly programmed radios, vague updates, and a 33-minute communication blackout just before the flames engulfed the men. Investigators did not consider whether better communication might have saved the men.
The report provides the first minute-to-minute account of the fatal afternoon. The day went according to routine in the boulder-strewn mountains until the wind shifted around 4 p.m., pushing a wall of fire that had been receding from the hotshots all day back toward them.
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