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Wednesday, July 3, 2013

BURNED ALIVE: Deaths of 19 firefighters killed in Arizona wildfire investigated

That's the question investigators are asking right now in the wake of one of the worst firefighting tragedies since 9/11 took the lives of over 300 of New York City's fearless firemen.
In the immediate aftermath of the Yarnell fire this week, no one was sure yet what went wrong that could have caused all but one member of Granite Mountain's elite 'Hotshot' unit -- Brendan McDonough -- to perish in a mountainside inferno.
Lone survivor and lookout of the Yarnell fire Brendan McDonough
Erratic summer winds, record high temperatures, tinderbox conditions from an unprecedented drought, and perhaps even a deliberate refusal to heed danger or follow lifesaving protocols because the doomed crew members were defending home territory, are all factors currently being explored.
As well, questions surrounding lone survivor McDonough's role in failing to divert the carnage have also been posed, and it's too soon to tell if he's answering these satisfactorily.
As it turned out, Brendan McDonough was spared the same grisly death as his teammates, he says, only because the 21-year-old was stationed at a lookout point well away from the main fire zone.
There, he had been positioned to observe and advise his colleagues on the ground in order to safeguard them as they worked and, if necessary, tell the crew when to drop everything and retreat.
But that didn't happen, or at least not in time. And, even though each man allegedly managed to deploy a fireproof tent at the last minute, the heat and duration of the flames that engulfed the group was just too intense for their apparatus to protect them.
All 19 firefighters killed in Arizona, ranging in age from their early 20s to early 40s, burned to death in the Yarnell fire while McDonough fled to safety.
As a result, nearly a dozen state and federal agencies are now feverishly working side by side to determine once and for all: Was it an accident? Negligence? Or homicide?

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