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Fire crews aim to contain 85 percent of Arizona fire

Published July 4, 2013 7:18 pm

19 firefighters died from burns, breathing problems, coroner says.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Prescott, Ariz. • Fire officials said they expected to have a deadly Arizona blaze up to 85 percent contained by Thursday night.

Operations section chief Carl Schwope of a multi-agency incident team said the blaze wasn't actively burning and crews were working to ensure any embers are out cold. It was 45 percent contained Thursday afternoon.

Yavapai County Sheriff Scott Mascher said Peeples Valley residents would be able to return home Thursday evening.

Mascher said only those who can show proof of residency would be allowed past a checkpoint.

Evacuation orders for Yarnell remained in place.

The Yarnell Hill Fire was sparked by lightning on June 28. Two days later, violent winds fed the fire and took the Granite Mountain Hotshots by surprise, killing 19 members of the elite crew.

The fire has burned more than 100 structures on about 13 square miles.

Meanwhile, a coroner's office says 19 elite firefighters killed over the weekend died from burns and inhalation problems.

The Maricopa County Medical Examiner's Office in Phoenix issued the finding Thursday, two days after performing the autopsies.

The firefighters had deployed Sunday to what was thought to be a manageable lightning-caused forest fire near the small town of Yarnell.

Violent winds turned the fire, taking the crew by surprise and killing the Hotshot team.

An investigation is underway to find out what went wrong.

The firefighters' bodies will be taken back to Prescott on Sunday. —

Tragedy's lessons

Fire investigators from across the country arrived on the scene Tuesday night and are expected to spend the next two to three months carefully reconstructing everything leading up to the deaths. Among the many things the team will examine are the radio traffic logs, weather conditions, equipment, the terrain and decisions made by the crews on the ground and incident commanders.

"Our goal is to figure out what happened and make sure it doesn't happen to other firefighters," said James R. Karels, the director of the Florida Forest Service, who is leading the team.

The New York Times