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Tragedy struck twice over the weekend in Yavapai County.

First, on Friday, June 28, a lightning strike set off what the Arizona Incident Management Team has now named the Yarnell Hill Fire, about 1.5 miles southwest of Yarnell, a small town of about 650 residents.

The blaze spread quickly, leading officials to evacuate the town. Residents were sent north to Prescott or south to Wickenburg for shelter. As the fire spread, some 250 homes have been destroyed, more than half the town.

News Editor Christopher Fox GrahamMany of the firefighters and equipment freshly relieved from fighting the Doce Fire, still burning west-northwest of Prescott, were sent to battle the Yarnell Hill Fire.

The second tragedy struck Sunday, June 30. Fire officials announced late Sunday that 19 firefighters had been killed when the blaze overran their position on its eastern flank.

All the firefighters who died Sunday were members of the Prescott Fire Department — wildland firefighters of the Granite Mountain Hotshots.

Hotshots are among the toughest of the tough when it comes to fighting wildland fires. Their 20-person crews are called in by fire management teams to tackle the biggest wildfires in the harshest conditions. Hotshots hike for miles in heavy gear to remote locations in rough terrain to dig fire lines and cut down trees with axes and power saws. The Granite Mountain Hotshots have been battling fires in Arizona since they formed in 2002.

It is the highest wildland firefighter death toll in Arizona history and third-highest in American history — after the 1933 Griffith Park Fire in Los Angeles and the Big Blowup Fire in Idaho in 1910.

By midnight, only hours after the announcement broke, it spread across social media and some 105,000 people had joined a Facebook page dedicated to the firefighters. Several charities are planning fundraising efforts to assist the fire’s victims.

The Yarnell Hill Fire was still burning out of control as of Monday, July 1.

Words seem woefully inadequate to express our sympathy to the residents of Yarnell who’ve lost all they own and to the families of the firefighters who gave the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty. Our thoughts and prayers go out to all those from Yarnell and to the Prescott Fire Department.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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