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By Jackee Coe and Laurie Merrill - The Republic Sun Jun 30, 2013 9:24 PM
Arizona State forestry officials confirmed Sunday night that 19 firefighters have died in the Yarnell Hill Fire that has ripped through half of the town, sent residents to Prescott for safety and given the state its biggest ever wildfire firefighter tragedy.
“It’s a dark day,” said Mike Reichling, Arizona State Forestry Division spokesman.
Reichling said the 19 firefighters were found in an area that also had 19 fire shelters deployed. Some of those found were inside a shelter, which is typically used as a last resort to withstand the fire as it blows over. Some of the crew members were found outside the shelters.
Officials said 18 of the deceased were members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots team. It’s unknown what fire crew the 19th firefighter was a member of. The firefighters are part of a team that is typically sent in first to help cut off the fire, Reichling said.
“They were up there doing what they normally do,” he said.
Reichling expects about half of the town’s 500 homes to be decimated by the fire that is currently burning with zero containment and has grown well past 2,000 acres.
Mike Reichling, Arizona State Forestry Division spokesman, said the fire is quickly reaching “Type 1” status and that federal authorities will be brought in to help Monday morning and state officials will begin investigating the deaths. Reichling expects the manpower dedicated to the fire to reach about 400 people as federal help arrives.
Fire officials Sunday afternoon ordered the evacuation of Yarnell and parts of Peeples Valley as a fast moving, lightning-caused fire that charred up to 2,000 acres reached Yarnell, Reichling said, Arizona State Forestry Division spokesman.
Between 200 and 250 structures have burned.
The Wickenburg Community Hospital has been treating residents with minor injuries and those who have suffered smoke inhalation, said Roxie Glover, director of community relations at the hospital.
Glover said the emergency room started filling up about 6:30 and “it’s been pretty steady ever since.”
Those with more serious injuries are being transported to other medical centers.
“It’s a terrible tragedy,” Glover said, noting the hospital had fielded phone calls from families wondering if their family member was among the firefighters lost.
People seeking information about family members should call the Red Cross hotline: 800-842-7349. Those looking for shelter should call: 800-733-2767.
Full article AZCentral.com
RIP Prescott Granite Mountain Hotshots...