New video shows fight to beat blaze that killed 19 firefighters

Reuters News
Posted: Nov 10, 2014 7:20 PM

By David Schwartz

PHOENIX (Reuters) - Newly released video chronicling the battle against an Arizona blaze that killed 19 elite firefighters in June 2013 has detailed the moments the bodies were discovered already dead after a massive wall of flames swept over them.

With winds whipping in the background, the video and its audio capture a smoke-filled landscape as a firefighter announces his arrival on the scene and confirms the deaths.

"OK, I copy," comes the reply. "Let's go ahead and obviously secure the area and we'll go from there."

The firefighter responds, grimly: "Just confirming that no medical treatment needed at this time."

The heart-wrenching account is depicted in one of 20 new videos posted online by the Arizona State Forestry Division over the weekend, giving viewers one more glimpse into the tragic deaths of the 19 Granite Mountain Hotshots.

The videos add images to the overall picture of the events of the June 30, 2013 disaster, but offer little if any new information about the incident.

The so-called Yarnell Hill Fire, which destroyed scores of home and blackened 8,400 acres of drought-parched landscape, resulted in the greatest loss of life from a U.S. wildfire in 80 years.

Sparked by lightning and driven by gale-force winds, the fire struck in and around the tiny town of Yarnell, northeast of Phoenix.

Only one member of the crew survived, and the firefighting effort has drawn criticism, with the families of a dozen on the hotshots filing a wrongful death suit in June this year accusing the state of negligence.

Two investigative reports have been issued, one of which concluded that state forestry officials placed structures and land over firefighter safety. The forestry division was fined $559,000 for workplace safety violations.

The video clips, ranging in length from 28 seconds to more than seven minutes, offer a front-line view as crews worked to beat back the fire as it roared across the landscape.

"We need to get everybody out," one man is heard to say.

State officials have previously released a video that includes the last words from the hotshot crew as its members prepared to deploy their foil-lined shelters in a last-ditch bid to survive.

(Reporting by David Schwartz; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Sandra Maer)