Radio Problems Tied to Deaths of 19 Firefighters

Investigators say communication was shoddy during Arizona blaze
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Sep 28, 2013 12:36 PM CDT
Arizona Wildfire Report Cites Radio Problems
In this June 30 file photo, the Yarnell Hill Fire burns in Glenn Ilah near Yarnell, Ariz.   (AP Photo/The Arizona Republic, David Kadlubowski, File)

An investigation into the June deaths of 19 firefighters killed while battling an Arizona blaze has found improperly programmed radios, vague updates, and a 30-minute communication blackout just before the flames engulfed the men. The report says at the moment the firefighters were killed, an air tanker carrying fire retardant was hovering overhead, waiting for an update about their location. The Arizona State Forestry Division presented the roughly 120-page report to the men's families ahead of a news conference in Prescott.

The report said the firefighters didn't anticipate danger when they left the relative safety of a ridge top and dropped down into a bowl surrounded by mountains on three sides, despite warnings of the erratically changing weather that whipped the blaze into an unpredictable inferno. (The Arizona Republic says the report fails to answer the "key question": Why did the firefighters leave that ridge top?) All but one member of the Granite Mountain Hotshots crew died. (More Yarnell Hill Fire stories.)

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