An investigative report on the Yarnell Hill Fire that killed 19 members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots crew was released on Saturday at a morning news conference in Prescott, Arizona led by the Arizona State Forestry Division.
Florida State Forester Jim Karels led the Serious Accident Investigation Team, an interagency task force of experts, commissioned by the Forestry Division that wrote the report. During the conference, the Team provided information about the causes of the fire and the circumstances leading to the entrapment and ultimate deaths of the Hotshot crew.
According to NFPA, the Yarnell Hill Fire, which occurred on June 30, is the deadliest incident for firefighters since 9/11 and the third highest firefighter death toll for wildland fires. The 1910 Devil’s Broom wildfire in Silverton, Idaho killed 86 firefighters and the 1933 Griffith Park blaze in Los Angeles, California, killed 29. Following the Yarnell Hill tragedy, Ken Willette, NFPA's division manager for Public Fire Protection, fielded questions about the fire from PBS news anchor Judy Woodruff during a broadcast of NewsHour.
While the findings of the investigation and the recommendations which surfaced from this report don’t pertain directly to civilians (non-firefirefighter personnel), the message is still clear: all residents have a role to play in keeping our homes and communities safer from wildfire. Firefighters alone cannot solve the wildfire problems we face. As residents living in the WUI, we have the responsibility to help prepare for and protect our homes, neighborhoods and communities against the threat of wildfire. By doing so, we can help our firefighters do their jobs safely and with less incidents.
In recent months, more information has been shared about the Hotshot crew’s significant contribution to community safety in nearby Prescott, through their involvement in mitigation activities and creating defensible space near homes. The crew, working together with the Prescott Area WUI Commission and residents, made significant progress in reducing that community’s risk of wildfire damage by incorporating Fire Adapted Communities and Firewiseprinciples. At NFPA’s Backyards & Beyond Wildland Fire Education Conference in Salt Lake City, November 14 - 16, this significant and important work will be examined in a session, Prescott, Arizona – A Case Study in Community Wildfire Defense, and will highlight the effectiveness of the city’s growing community action movement toward their wildfire threat.