The Yarnell Hill fire last summer was a shocking and alarming tragedy. On June 30, 2013, 19 members of the elite Granite Mountain Interagency Hotshot crew were run down by a fire moving 10 to 12 miles per hour. Where the victims took their last breaths, the superheated air approached 2,000 degrees. The administrative and legal fallout from the fire continues to unfold.
The disaster of the Granite Mountain Hotshots caused the nation to grieve, with 19 highly trained, dedicated firefighters dead on an afternoon in June — how could it happen?
In the months following the fire, administrative agencies reached considerably different conclusions about the circumstances of the Yarnell Hill fire outside Prescott, Arizona and how the Hotshot crew came to be in mortal danger.
In September, an Arizona State Forestry Division (ASFD) task force released its investigative report, finding the following:
- Radio communications were challenging throughout the incident. Radio use, the whereabouts of the Hotshot crew and weather conditions were confused or unavailable in the time leading up to the fatal incident.
- No evidence of negligence, violation of protocol or recklessness was found.
- Judgment and management decisions concerning the fire were appropriate.
In December, the Industrial Commission of Arizona released its report on the incident, which included the following findings:
- The Industrial Commission issued three citations to the ASFD for failure to provide a safe workplace, mismanagement of the fire by failing to prioritize the safety of the firefighters, failure to develop necessary action plans and failure to engage incident command personnel.
- The commission determined that the Hotshot crew was unnecessarily and unreasonably exposed to deadly hazards.
- The report identifies ASFD concern for protection of structures over the safety of the firefighters.
- Legislation to compensate family members of the Hotshot crew is tabled pending lawsuits filed in the matter.
Money cannot restore life, but it assists families as they move forward. If your loved one suffers a wrongful death in Phoenix, learn about your options for legal action from an attorney.