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. (Read more Granite Mountain Hotshots stories.)