President Obama on Monday sent his condolences from Africa for the 19 elite firefighters who were killed during the line of duty in Arizona and called them selfless heroes.
"They were heroes — highly skilled professionals who, like so many across our country do every day, selflessly put themselves in harms' way to protect the lives and property of fellow citizens they would never meet," he said. "Michelle and I join all Americans in sending our thoughts and prayers to the families of these brave firefighters and all whose lives have been upended by this terrible tragedy."
Mr. Obama also promised the full strength of the federal government to assist with the blaze. The fire was believed to have been sparked by lightning, NBC reported. At least 200 buildings in the town of Yarnell, 85 miles outside Phoenix, have been destroyed, too.
The firefighters were all members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots, an elite unit.
Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer made a statement, also: "This is as dark a day as I can remember. ... It may be days or longer before an investigation reveals how this tragedy occurred, but the essence we already know in our hearts: fighting fires is dangerous work. ... When a tragedy like this strikes, all we can do is offer our eternal gratitude to the fallen and prayers for the families and friends left behind. God bless them all."
The deaths of the 19 will go down as one of the worst fatal firefighting incidents in U.S. history.
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