PRESCOTT, AZ - An elite team of 19 firefighters was killed Sunday while battling an Arizona blaze in one of the deadliest wildfires in decades. Fire has swept over the dry brush and grass, leveling homes and forcing the evacuation of two towns.
Art Morrison of the Arizona State Forestry Commission told CNN the firefighters, members of a specially trained "hot shot" team were killed on Sunday afternoon when they were overtaken by flames.
"In normal circumstances, when you're digging fire lines, you make sure you have a good escape route, and you have a safety zone set up. Evidently, their safety zone wasn't big enough, and the fire just overtook them. By the time the other firefighters got in, they didn't survive," Morrison said."It was a hand crew, a hot shot crew," he said.
Granite Mountain Hotshots
The Prescott Fire Department hosts the Granite Mountain Interagency Hotshot Crew.
From the department's website:
From our beginning as a fuels mitigation crew in 2002, through the formation of Crew 7 (Type 2 I/A) in 2004, and our transition into the elite Hotshot community in 2008, our goal has been to provide our customers with "Excellence in Service" through our superior physical conditioning, our commitment to training, innovative problem solving, and our history of safe and aggressive fire suppression.
About the Crew
Granite Mountain IHC consists of dedicated people of varying age and diverse backgrounds. Our common bond is our love of hard work and arduous adventure. We believe in rigorous physical and mental training, which allows us to perform at the optimum level in any location and under any circumstances. We are routinely exposed to extreme environmental conditions, long work hours, long travel hours and the most demanding of fireline tasks. Comforts such as beds, showers and hot meals are not always common. Problem solving, teamwork, ability to make decisions in a stressful environment and being nice are the attributes of our crewmembers. We are grateful for our opportunities to excel and proud to represent the citizens of the City of Prescott and the Prescott Fire Department.
Granite Mountain Hotshots continues to provide defensible space on private parcels, as well as City owned open space. We also use prescribed fire to treat fuels on both City property and National Forest land.
Granite Mountain IHC is very proud of our tradition of providing both excellent classroom and field training to our crewmembers. In addition to our annual 80 hour critical training and refresher, we offer many NWCG courses throughout the season. We almost always have at least one person working on a position taskbook on every assignment. As members of the Prescott Fire Department, we also have opportunities for additional training such as EMS and Technical Rescue. Granite Mountain provides a training cadre that is active both in house and at the Arizona Wildfire and Incident Management Academy.
Physical Fitness Program
The nature of our work requires us to endure physical hardships beyond most people's experiences. Environmental extremes, long hours, bad food, and steep, rugged terrain, demand that we train early and often by running and hiking, doing core exercises, yoga, and weight training. We must pass the Arduous Work Capacity Test (Pack Test) as a condition of hire. Also, we have a fitness goal of a 1.5 mile run in 10 minutes 35 seconds, 40 sit-ups in 60 seconds, 25 pushups in 60 seconds, and 7 pull ups.
Granite Mountain IHC strives to recruit members possessing traits such as teamwork, professionalism, integrity, honesty, care and respect, and reliability. We value problem solving skills and the ability to make safe decisions in stressful environments. Our members are required to be in excellent physical condition and must be able to pass the arduous Work Capacity Test as a condition of hire. Previous wildland experience is preferred but not a requirement.
"Photo Courtesy of the US Forest Service, Gila National Forest."
http://www.flickr.com/photos/gilaforest/ Gila National Forest - Flicker account