July 2, 2013

Powerful winds expected to whip Arizona wildfire

By Hannah Dreier and Tami Abdollah / The Associated Press

(Continued from page 1)

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George Murphy of the Yavapi Tribal Police pays his respects at a makeshift memorial outside the Granite Mountain Hotshot crew fire station Tuesday in Prescott, Ariz., honoring 19 firefighters killed battling a wildfire near Yarnell, Ariz., Sunday.

The Associated Press

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The multi-agency group of investigators arrived Monday and was being briefed in Phoenix. Judith Downing, a spokeswoman for the taskforce, said they would go to the fire scene Tuesday.

At last count, about 500 firefighters were on the scene, with more on the way. The fire has burned 8,400 acres, or about 13 square miles, as a heat wave across the Southwest sent temperature soaring.

Southwest incident team leader Clay Templin said the crew and its commanders were following safety protocols, and it appears the fire's erratic nature simply overwhelmed them.

The Hotshot team had spent recent weeks fighting fires in New Mexico and Prescott before being called to Yarnell, entering the smoky wilderness over the weekend with backpacks, chainsaws and other heavy gear to remove brush and trees.

In a heartbreaking sight, a long line of vans from a coroner's office carried the bodies of the 19 firefighters Monday from Yarnell to Phoenix for autopsies, as the fire burned out of control.

In addition to the flames, downed power lines and exploding propane tanks continued to threaten what was left of the town, fire information officer Steve Skurja said. A light rain fell Monday but did little in helping crews gain the upper hand fire.

Arizona's governor called Sunday "as dark a day as I can remember" and ordered flags flown at half-staff.

"I know that it is unbearable for many of you, but it also is unbearable for me. I know the pain that everyone is trying to overcome and deal with today," said Gov. Jan Brewer, her voice catching several times as she addressed reporters and residents at Prescott High School in the town of 40,000.

Fraijo said he feared the worst when he received a call Sunday afternoon from someone assigned to the fire.

"All he said was, 'We might have bad news. The entire Hotshot crew deployed their shelters,'" Fraijo said. "When we talk about deploying the shelters, that's an automatic fear, absolutely. That's a last-ditch effort to save yourself when you deploy your shelter."

The 19 killed were Andrew Ashcraft, 29; Kevin Woyjeck, 21; Anthony Rose, 23; Eric Marsh, 43; Christopher MacKenzie, 30; Robert Caldwell, 23; Clayton Whitted , 28; Scott Norris, 28; Dustin DeFord, 24; Sean Misner, 26; Garret Zuppiger, 27; Travis Carter, 31; Grant McKee, 21; Travis Turbyfill, 27; Jesse Steed, 36; Wade Parker, 22; Joe Thurston, 32; William Warneke, 25; and John Percin, 24.

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