National Wildfire Coordinating Group

2023 Week of Remembrance Day 1

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Yarnell Hill Fire 10-Year Anniversary

Today’s topic is dedicated to all fallen wildland firefighters. 
May we never stop learning.

 

On June 30, 2013, at 4:42 p.m., nineteen firefighters were killed on the Yarnell Hill fire in Arizona. The Granite Mountain Interagency Hotshot Crew (IHC) from the Prescott Fire Department was working on the south end of the fire, west of Yarnell, Arizona, when they were overrun.

“Yeah, I’m here with Granite Mountain Hotshots. Our escape route has been cut off. We are preparing a deployment site, and we are burning out around ourselves in the brush, and I’ll give you a call when we are under the ...shelters.”
Eric Marsh, Granite Mountain Superintendent

The fire had a spread rate of 10 to 12 mph and cut off their escape route as the crew transitioned through unburned fuel from their lunch spot in the black to a local ranch that needed protection.

After quickly improving their deployment site and deploying their shelters close together, the fire overtook them. Unfortunately, the deployment site, located in a box canyon with heavy brush, caused direct flame contact to the shelters with temperatures of approximately 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit. One crewmember, the lookout, was not with the crew at the time of their entrapment and was safely transported out of the area by another IHC.

Collaboration with several committees and agencies occurred following the accident to develop a Yarnell Hill Fire Serious Accident Investigation Team (SAIT) and a subsequent 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. The first staff ride of this incident began in 2017 and continues to provide lessons for upcoming firefighters while also remembering the members of Granite Mountain Hotshots.

 
This is our history. Learn from it today. Use it tomorrow.

Action and Discussion Items:

  • Watch the Yarnell Hill Fire briefing video provided in the resources section. After watching the video, discuss the events and ideas relayed in the video as a group. Discuss where you were when this incident occurred. Do you remember your initial feelings after hearing about the 19 fatalities? How has this incident changed your perspective after 10 years? Have you changed how you engage in tactics because of Yarnell Hill?
  • Look for staff rides near you that you can attend. They don’t need to be on a fire, (e.g., Gettysburg, Little Bighorn).
  • If you have been on a staff ride, discuss what it was like and the impact it had on you. If you participated in a staff ride outside of fire, how can you apply these lessons to wildland fire?
  • Honor and remember the lives of fallen firefighters throughout this week. Keep talking about these events and what has happened to bring change. Keep moving forward by implementing and learning these lessons.

Resources:

 

Category: 
Week of Remembrance
Page Last Modified / Reviewed: 
Jun 2023

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