Nineteen firefighters were killed on Sunday battling a fast-moving wildfire menacing a small town in central Arizona.
The firefighters died fighting the Yarnell Hill Fire near the town of Yarnell, about 80 miles northwest of Phoenix. Steve Skurja, a spokesman for the Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office, said there were “several fires still active” in the Yarnell area. In a search of the scene, Mr. Skurja said, crews found the bodies of the firefighters.
They were members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots, a specialist team of wildfire fighters based in Prescott, Ariz., said Mike Reichling, a spokesman for the Tempe Fire Department. He declined to identify the men until their families had been notified.
“This is as dark a day as I can remember,” Arizona’s governor, Jan Brewer, said in a statement. “It may be days or longer before an investigation reveals how this tragedy occurred, but the essence we already know in our hearts: fighting fires is dangerous work,” she said. “When a tragedy like this strikes, all we can do is offer our eternal gratitude to the fallen, and prayers for the families and friends left behind. God bless them all.”
President Obama issued a statement Monday as he was ending a visit to South Africa and flying to Tanzania. “Yesterday, 19 firefighters were killed in the line of duty while fighting a wildfire outside Yarnell, Arizona. They were heroes — highly skilled professionals who, like so many across our country do every day, selflessly put themselves in harm’s way to protect the lives and property of fellow citizens they would never meet.
“Michelle and I join all Americans in sending our thoughts and prayers to the families of these brave firefighters and all whose lives have been upended by this terrible tragedy.”
The firefighters had to deploy their emergency shelters when “something drastic happened,” Fire Chief Dan Fraijo of Prescott told The Associated Press.
The crew killed in the blaze had worked other wildfires in recent weeks in New Mexico and Arizona. The unit was established in 2002.
In a Facebook post, the United States Wildland Fire Aviation Service asked “for prayers for the families and friends of these brave men and women.”
Until Sunday, Arizona had suffered 21 firefighter fatalities in wildfires since 1955, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.”
The New York Times, "Fast-Moving Blaze Kills 19 Firefighters in Central Arizona."
Oh my God.