A look at deadly US accidents involving fire crews

AP News
Posted: Jul 01, 2013 5:44 PM
A look at deadly US accidents involving fire crews

A look at some of the deadliest U.S. tragedies to have claimed the lives of wildland firefighters, including the 19 killed in an Arizona blaze Sunday:

— June 30, 2013: Nineteen members of an elite crew were killed in a fire northwest of Phoenix that lit up the night sky in the forest above the town of Yarnell. The fast-moving blaze fueled by hot, dry conditions is the deadliest wildfire involving firefighters in the U.S. for at least 30 years.

— Aug. 5, 2008: Nine people were killed when a helicopter crashed shortly after taking off with a load of firefighters heading back to camp in Northern California. Seven of the dead were firefighters with Grayback Forestry Inc. The crew was fighting a forest fire on the Shasta-Trinity National Forest outside Redding, Calif.

— Oct. 26, 2006: Five firefighters assigned to San Bernardino National Forest Engine 57 were fatally burned when fierce Santa Ana winds blew the Esperanza Fire over their structure-protection position at Twin Pines in the San Jacinto Mountains.

— Aug. 24, 2003: Eight contract firefighters who had spent two weeks fighting an Idaho wildfire were killed on their way home when their van collided with a tractor-trailer and exploded into flames outside Vale, Ore. The firefighters, all men, worked for First Strike Environmental, a contract firefighting company and all were from Oregon.

— July 10, 2001: Four firefighters died in their emergency fire shelters when a wildfire trapped them in a north-central Washington canyon. Ten other firefighters and two campers survived, but a Forest Service investigation later found that fire bosses had broken all 10 of the agency's standard safety rules and ignored numerous signs of danger that day.

— July 6, 1994: A blaze near Glenwood Springs, Colo., killed 14 firefighters who were overtaken by a sudden explosion of flames. The lightning-sparked Storm King Mountain blaze roared through shrubs as the firefighters scrambled uphill. Thirty-five firefighters on the mountain that day survived.

— June 26, 1990: The rapidly spreading Dude fire in the Tonto National Forest near Payson in eastern Arizona trapped 11 firefighters, killing six of them.

— July 9, 1953: The Rattlesnake fire in Northern California took the lives of 15 firefighters battling a blaze in Mendocino National Forest.

— In August 1949, 15 smoke jumpers parachuted in to Mann Gulch north of Helena, Mont., to fight a wildfire started by lightning. The wind picked up and caused the fire to spread thousands of acres in just 10 minutes, forcing the men to drop their gear and race for their lives up the steep slope to the ridge. Twelve smokejumpers and a Helena National Forest fire guard died after being overtaken by the fire. Their story was memorialized by Norman Maclean, the author of "A River Runs Through It," in the book "Young Men and Fire."

— Oct. 3, 1933: The Griffith Park wildfire in Los Angeles killed 29 firefighters.


Online: National Fire Protection Association, nfpa.org, AP reports.