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President Barack Obama called the 19 firefighters heroes and said in a statement that the federal government was assisting state and local officials.

“This is as dark a day as I can remember,” Gov. Jan Brewer said in a statement. “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.”

Brewer said she would travel to the area on Monday.

Chuck Overmyer and his wife, Ninabill, said they lost their, 1,800-square-foot home in the blaze.

They were helping friends flee when the blaze switched directions and moved toward his property. They loaded up what belongings they could, including three dogs and a 1930 model hot rod on a trailer. As he looked out his rear view mirror he could see embers on the roof of his garage.

“We knew it was gone,” he said.

He later gathered at the Arrowhead Bar and Grill in nearby Congress along with locals and watched on TV as he saw the fire destroy his house.

“That was when we knew it was really gone,” he said.

He later fielded a phone call from a friend in which he said, “Lost it all, man. Yep, it’s all gone.”

Morrison said the fire grew in intensity when winds began gusting at up to 24 mph in the late afternoon.

“You get some winds, and it can take off on you,” he said.

Two hundred firefighters were working on the fire Sunday, but several hundred more were expected to arrive Monday when a new fire management team takes over.

The fire has forced the closure of parts of state Route 89. It was zero percent contained late Sunday.

The Red Cross has opened two shelters in the area — at Yavapai College in Prescott and at the Wickenburg High School gym.

Prescott, which is more than 30 miles northeast of Yarnell, is one of the only cities in the United States that has a hot shot fire crew, Fraijo said. The unit was established in 2002, and the city also has 75 suppression team members.

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