Arizona Contests Citations in Firefighter Deaths

Arizona's Forestry Division on Thursday contested citations and fines issued by the state's workplace safety agency for the June deaths of 19 firefighters who were killed battling a wildfire northwest of Phoenix, reports The Arizona Daily Star.

The appeal with the Arizona Division of Occupational Safety and Health asks for a hearing to contest the citations and nearly $560,000 fine.

The letter sent by the Arizona Attorney General on behalf of Forestry said the violations found by the agency and the subsequent citations and fines "are not supported by substantial evidence."

The state's Industrial Commission levied the fines on Dec. 4 after agreeing with workplace safety investigators that the Forestry Division mismanaged the fire and firefighting crews assigned to the Yarnell Hill Fire in June. The commission found the division knowingly put protection of property ahead of safety and should have pulled crews out earlier.

The fire killed all but one member of Prescott's Granite Mountain Hotshots on June 30 after a change in wind direction pushed the flames back toward their position. The lone member who escaped was acting as a lookout and away from the rest of the crew.

The report by the state's occupational safety and health agency stands in stark contrast to an earlier investigation commissioned by the Forestry Division, which found that state fire officials communicated poorly but followed proper procedures when the firefighters were killed near the small community of Yarnell northwest of Phoenix.

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