Radio Calls Detail Deadly Turn in Arizona Fire

USA Today reports that the Granite Mountain Hotshots had been standing in an area already burned by the Yarnell Hill Fire minutes before they were killed, and they deployed their fire shelters within sight of a building that ultimately survived the fire, according to documents released this week.

Nineteen firefighters from the hotshot crew died June 30 when the erratic wildfire outside Yarnell overtook their position in a bowl-shaped valley.

Reports written by an Arizona Department of Public Safety helicopter crew and released Thursday offer another glimpse into the harrowing last half-hour that the crew spent traversing a rugged peak near Yarnell. The reports also detail the agonizing scene a DPS medic encountered when he hiked into the bowl after the fire burned through, discovering the dead men.

The DPS crew’s first hint of trouble came at about 4:30 p.m.

The chopper crew had been flying over the fire since early that morning, escorting fire commanders on reconnaissance flights around the explosive blaze and outfitting their aircraft with a collapsible bucket in case they needed to perform water drops.

The crew took an incident manager on a 45-minute tour of the fire that ended at about 2:30p.m., then landed in a field and waited for further instructions.

Weather forced incident commanders to ground firefighting aircraft at about 4p.m.

About 30 minutes later, the DPS team heard on their two-way radio the first of a series of calls from the Granite Mountain Hotshots.

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