Arizona firefighters failed to set proper escape route, forestry spokesman says
The 19 firefighters killed in a fast-moving blaze through Arizona did not establish a proper escape route, in accordance with safety protocols, a forestry head said on Monday.
Protocol requires firefighters to have a safe zone to retreat to in case a fire rages beyond their control, said Art Morrison, a spokesman with the Arizona State Forestry Division, the Los Angeles Times reported. But the bodies of the 19 were discovered near their emergency fire shelters — leading investigators to conclude that they had not established an escape area that was large enough for all of them when the fire spread, the L.A. Times reported.
“Obviously, it wasn’t big enough open field … if they had to deploy their shelters,” said Mr. Morrison, in the L.A. Times. “They were too close to heavy fuels, so they got overrun.”
Fire shelters work best against fast-moving fires that quickly pass — not in situations where the flames hang around, driving up temperatures. Officials said some of 19 firefighters had deployed their shelters, while the bodies of others were found uncovered, on the open ground, the L.A. Times said.
The 19 firefighters were part of the elite Granite Mountain Interagency Hotshot Crew.
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