|A home burns in Yarnell, Arizona |
(Tom Story / Arizona Republic / June 30, 2013)
Nineteen firefighters died Sunday while battling a fast-moving wildfire northwest of Phoenix. The was the worst firefighter loss of life in a wildland blaze since 1933.
The firefighters went missing while fighting the Yarnell Hill fire and 19 members of the 20-person crew died. One survivor was hospitalized with injuries. The firefighters belonged to the Granite Mountain Interagency Hotshot Crew, an elite unit sponsored by a fire department in nearby Prescott. Approximately 25 firefighters are killed on average each year.
The blaze was sparked Friday by lightning. Sunday's incident appears to be the deadliest in modern wildland firefighting. The previous highest number of deaths in a fire came in Colorado on July 6, 1994. There, at Storm King Mountain near Glenwood Springs, 14 firefighters were trapped when a wind-driven blaze blew up a hill.
Since the 1950s — until Sunday — only three other wildfires had claimed the lives of 10 or more firefighters, and each prompted changes in safety regulations and training.
According to National Interagency Fire Center statistics, Sunday's deaths were the worst since 1933, when a fire in Los Angeles' Griffith Park killed at least 25 firefighters. (L.A. Times, 6/30/2013)
The Center has a Wildfire Mitigation Program.