How the Arizona Fire Tragedy Unfolded

New reports detail the final moments of the Hotshot crew

By Ruth Brown,  Newser Staff

Posted Jul 6, 2013 4:04 PM CDT

(Newser) – Although the circumstances of how 19 firefighters were killed in Arizona's Yarnell Hill Fire are already broadly known, new reports offer a more detailed look at how the tragedy unfolded. The AP has compiled a map of the Hotshot crew's final movements, confirmed by fire officials, showing the firefighters were just over a quarter of a mile from the designated safety zone—a ranch house and its surrounding area—when winds shifted, cutting off their access. The crew was working on the southeast end of the fire, with winds blowing northeast. But a thunderstorm suddenly developed north of the fire, pushing it straight into the crew's direction.

Meanwhile, the Arizona Republic looks at the final communications from crew boss Eric Marsh. Around the same time surviving crew member Brendan McDonough left his lookout post, Marsh radioed to say the team was falling back. "It was just, 'Hey, we’re in a bad spot. We gotta move,'" says Prescott Fire Department spokesperson Wade Ward. “Knowing Eric, there was no indication they were in the trouble they were in." Moments later, he radioed again. "They did not have enough time,” says Ward. “They could not reach their objective. They were going to use their shelters. He was very calm ... And then the next transmission was, simply, 'Deploying.'" According to records, other firefighters heard another transmission in the final seconds, followed by silence.

A wildfire burning homes in Yarnell, Arizona.
A wildfire burning homes in Yarnell, Arizona.   (AP Photo/The Arizona Republic, David Kadlubowski, File)
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