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‘Dark day’: Flags lowered for 19 dead firefighters in Arizona


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The U.S. has 110 hotshot crews, according to the U.S. Forest Service website.

Arizona is in the midst of a historic drought that has left large parts of the state highly flammable.

At a glance

Bodies of firefighters killed in Arizona recovered

The bodies of 19 members of an elite firefighting crew killed after being overrun by an Arizona wildfire have been retrieved from the mountain where they died.

Prescott Fire Chief Dan Fraijo now says all 19 were from the Prescott-based Granite Mountain Hotshots. Authorities earlier said one of the men wasn’t a crew member.

One man who belonged to the 20-person team survived because he was moving the crew’s truck.

The crew was found late Sunday afternoon with their emergency fire shelters deployed. They’d been battling a blaze moving toward Yarnell, a small town about 85 miles northwest of Phoenix.

The bodies were retrieved Monday near the town.

The fire made it into Yarnell and destroyed an unknown number of homes and businesses. It has burned more than 13 square miles.

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"Until we get a significant showing of the monsoons, it’s show time and it’s dangerous, really dangerous," incident commander Roy Hall said.

The National Fire Protection Association website lists the last wildland fire to kill more firefighters as the 1933 Griffith Park fire of Los Angeles, which killed 29. The biggest loss of firefighters in U.S. history was 343, killed in the 9/11 terrorist attack in New York.

In 1994, the Storm King Fire near Glenwood Springs, Colo., killed 14 firefighters who were overtaken by a sudden explosion of flames.

Television aerial video footage showed law enforcement vehicles patrolling Yarnell, driving streets with burned buildings on both sides.

As the blaze spread, people started fleeing, including Chuck Overmyer and his wife, Ninabill. They were helping friends leave when the blaze switched directions and moved toward his property. They loaded up what belongings they could, including three dogs and a 1930 hot rod, on a trailer.

As he looked out his rear-view mirror he could see embers on the roof of his garage.

"We knew it was gone," he said.

He later went to the Arrowhead Bar and Grill in nearby Congress, where he and other locals watched on TV as the fire destroyed his house.


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The Red Cross opened two shelters in the area — one at Yavapai College in Prescott and the other in a high school gym.

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Billeaud reported from Phoenix. Associated Press writers Brian Skoloff in Yarnell and Martin Di Caro in Washington also contributed to this report.

A look at deadly U.S. accidents involving fire crews

Here is 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 are 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.

— 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 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 Southern California took the lives of 15 firefighters battling a blaze in Mendocino National Forest.

— Aug. 5, 1949 — The Mann Gulch fire near Helena, Mont., killed 12 smokejumpers and a forest ranger after they were overrun by flames. Their story was memorialized in the book “Young Men and Fire” by Norman Maclean, who also wrote “A River Runs Through It.”

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

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Online: National Fire Protection Association, nfpa.org



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