2022 WOR Day 1: Yarnell Hill Fire (Arizona) – June 30, 2013
Perspective by the Yarnell Hill Fire SAIT lead
Today’s topic is dedicated to all fallen wildland firefighters.
Nineteen firefighters were killed on the Yarnell Hill Fire in central Arizona on June 30, 2013, at 1642. The Granite Mountain Interagency Hotshot Crew (IHC) from the Prescott Fire Department was working on the south end of the fire west of Yarnell when they were overrun by fire. This tragedy occurred while the crew was traveling through an unburned area toward a safety zone when a rapidly advancing fire of great intensity overtook them. 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 to the canyon rim. The crew had less than two minutes to improve a shelter deployment site using chainsaws and burning out. The crew had deployed their fire shelters close together when the fire overtook them. The deployment site, in a box canyon with heavy brush, caused direct flame contact and extreme temperatures as the fire swept through and was not survivable.
The loss of nineteen of the twenty Granite Mountain IHC had a profound impact on family and friends as well as on the Prescott Fire Department, the State of Arizona, the Interagency Hotshot Crew community, and all firefighters across the United States and around the world.
Following the accident, a Yarnell Hill Fire Serious Accident Investigation Team (SAIT) developed a fire report. The report concentrated on helping wildland firefighters of the present and future learn from the tragedy through sense making, reviewing decision points, and a video. This helped firefighters visualize what happened and how to best learn from the loss of the Granite Mountain IHC members. One recommendation from the report was that the State of Arizona lead an interagency effort to develop a Yarnell Hill Fire staff ride to remember these brave firefighters and to help future firefighters learn from this event.
Today we honor and remember the lives of the nineteen lost on this tragic day, but we also remember the lives of all fallen firefighters and honor them throughout this week. The anniversaries of such events should signal a reminder for all of us to seek improvement and pursue successful outcomes where we all safely come off the line at the end of each shift.
How do we as a fire community remember and honor the lives of those who were lost on these fires? We need to keep talking about and learning from what happened to bring change. We need to be open to assessing what we have learned from these events and be proactive in implementing the lessons learned moving forward.
The purpose of this week is to honor our fallen firefighters by making a commitment that we will apply the lessons we have learned every day, on every fireline we walk, and with every decision we make. Use the materials provided this week as a foundation for respectful dialogue and discussion. Apply these lessons to yourself, your crew, your team, and your unit. Ask yourself this: How can these lessons help change us for the better?
Granite Mountain 19:
Andrew Ashcraft, Robert Caldwell, Travis Carter, Dustin DeFord,
Christopher MacKenzie, Eric Marsh, Grant McKee, Sean Misner,
Scott Norris, Wade Parker, John Percin Jr., Anthony Rose,
Jesse Steed, Joe Thurston, Travis Turbyfill, William Warneke,
Clayton Whitted, Kevin Woyjeck, and Garret Zuppiger.
As a firefighter you should never stop learning, as one day your life may depend on it.”
– Jim Karels, NASF Fire Director and lead investigator on the Yarnell Hill Fire SAIT
- RT-130, Wildland Fire Safety Training Annual Refresher (WFSTAR) Module: Yarnell Hill Fire Case Study
- Granite Mountain Hotshots Memorial State Park Arizona
- Yarnell Hill Fire Resources at the Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center
- Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center, Two More Chains, Summer 2013
Incident Management Situation Report (IMSR)
10 Standard Firefighting Orders, PMS 110
18 Watch Out Situations, PMS 118
10 & 18 Poster, PMS 110-18
NWCG Incident Response Pocket Guide (IRPG), PMS 461
RT-130, Wildland Fire Safety Training Annual Refresher (WFSTAR)
Interagency Standards for Fire and Fire Aviation Operations (Red Book)
Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center