19 'Hotshot' Firefighters Didn't Have to Die: Report
Families get new, upsetting information about Yarnell Hill Fire
By Evann Gastaldo, Newser Staff
Posted Dec 5, 2013 8:34 AM CST
Shari Turbyfill, center, the wife of David Turbyfill, right, cries during the Industrial Commission of Arizona hearing on Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2013, in Phoenix.   (AP Photo/The Arizona Republic, David Wallace)

(Newser) – Family members of the 19 Granite Mountain Hotshots firefighters who were killed in Arizona's Yarnell Hill Fire in July are struggling with the added heartbreak that their loved ones didn't have to die. A state safety commission ruled yesterday that state forestry officials made numerous errors; among them: They failed to give the crew sufficient safety equipment, didn't follow wildfire-planning rules, didn't withdraw the firefighters when they should have, and ultimately, put a "losing battle" over the safety of the firefighters, all in an effort to save "non-defensible structures and pastureland." The commission issued $559,000 in fines and penalties, including $25,000 to each of the families, the Arizona Republic reports.

"It was mismanaged from the beginning, and they sent our boys out there to defend something that was not defendable," a mother who lost her son tells the Republic. A father who also lost his son reacted this way when he heard of all the mistakes that were made: "I get the impression sort of like our guys were out there on their own. When they realized that something needed to be done and they did it, it was too late." Some relatives are considering or have already taken legal action in an effort to get more answers, but one of the other mothers says she doesn't blame anyone or anything other than the fire itself.

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Showing 3 of 8 comments
Ezekiel 25:17
Dec 5, 2013 1:05 PM CST
Blame part of this on communications, or the lack thereof. Because of previous incidents involving the death of firefighters in a wildfire situation, the federal laws were changed but have not yet gone fully into effect. One mandate is a fire service radio capable of telemetry with the command post. The radio shows location of the crew member at all times. The radio also resolves all communications issues with multiple agencies. From what I read, there were channel assignment and location issues going on. You get those situations, you get death.
old_guy
Dec 5, 2013 1:04 PM CST
It is time to either commit the kind of resources to total fire suppression or consider allowing more burning. We have been cutting fire budgets for years now and the number of firemen are not sufficient for total suppression, it takes fire fighters on the ground. Airborne attacks are way too limited to stop any established fire line.
specialk
Dec 5, 2013 11:39 AM CST
When the Spanish first came into the Los Angeles basin in the 1700's, they found the Indians/Native Americans called it "the Valley of Smoke". This incessant dream-beat for total fire suppression is really a failed policy. It merely allows for unfettered growth of trees/brush/grass et al until a fire starts that cannot be extinguished by any means. The Smoky Bear time has come and (long) gone. Here in the So. Calif. Cleveland National Forest , we have wide areas that have not burned in 20 + years, and is so thick as to be almost impenetrable. We have to rethink our fire suppression attitude and let it burn with NO human involvement and loss of life.