YARNELL, AZ - We are now learning more about what happened on June 30 when 19 Granite Mountain Hotshots deployed from Prescott, Ariz. died while battling the Yarnell Hill Fire.
The Yarnell Hill Fire Serious Accident Investigation Report was released Saturday morning. The full 122-page report can be found here.
The investigation team included representatives from the Missoula Fire Department, Kern County Fire Department, Boise Fire Department, Florida state department and federal governments, as well as independent experts from across the country, according to the report.
"This tragedy occurred when the Granite Mountain Interagency Hotshot Crew was traveling through an unburned area toward a safety zone when a rapidly advancing fire of great intensity overtook them," the report reads. "The fire's extreme speed of 10 to 12 miles per hour eliminated any opportunity for the crew to reach the safety zone or return up to the canyon rim. The crew had less than two minutes to improve a shelter deployment site by using chain saws and burning out. The crew was deploying their fire shelters close together in a small area when the fire overtook them."
There was a gap of over 30 minutes in the information available for the Granite Mountain IHC. From 4:04 until 4:37 p.m., the investigation team cannot verify any communications from the crew, and they have almost no direct information from them. Investigators cannot fully know how they made their decisions prior to their entrapment and fire shelter deployment around 4:42 p.m. No crew members from the deployment site survived to tell why the crew took the
actions they took.
The report reveals that there were a lot of unknowns to the firefighters, including the severity of the weather.
"A large thunderstorm over 15 miles to the north and northeast was creating an outflow boundary that was going to cause a wind direction shift and increase in velocity, resulting in an increase in fire spread rates and a directional change to the south," the report reads.
The primary goal of the report is to facilitate learning from this tragedy, in order to reduce the likelihood of future accidents. To this end, the investigation team retained some of the most effective techniques of past investigations while integrating current theory and practices. The intent of this blending is to offer to the wildland fire community the highest-quality learning product possible, in a timely manner, according to the report.