A Phoenix reporter said he was not shocked that last-ditch fire shelters failed to protect members of a Prescott hotshot crew that were killed over the weekend while fighting the Yarnell Hill Fire.
William Pitts, a reporter for 12 News, has specialized fire training and is trained to use the fire shelters; basically a blanket made of specialized material designed to cover firefighters who are being overrun by fire.
Pitts said hotshots are trained to seal themselves inside the blankets within a minute, but the process of removing it from their belt, stepping inside and effectively closing themselves off properly is crucial.
“You flip over so you’re facing the ground,” he said. “The point of that is you’re trying to get away from that hot air as much as possible and you want to seal as much as you can against the ground because not only will the heat get you, but the heat that you breathe in will scar your lungs.”
Pitts said it was possible, because of the speed and silence of fire, that the fire was on top of the hotshots before they had time to cocoon themselves.
Pitts also said that he can imagine how tough things are for the people around Prescott, as the Greer native knew a majority of the crews who fought the Wallow Fire.
“They were literally fighting in front of where my house was,” he said.
Pitts said that big fires hitting small towns is “unbelievably difficult” for the community, especially when life is lost.
For volunteer, fundraising and other ways to assist those affected by the Yarnell Hill Fire, go to yarnellfallenfirefighters.com.
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