Official: ‘They will look at every aspect of the fire’
PHOENIX – An investigation into what caused the Yarnell Hill fire that killed 19 firefighters was launched Tuesday and will look at what could have caused the tragedy.
Jim Paxon, a public information officer with the Arizona Game and Fish Department told News/Talk 92.3 KTAR’s Mac & Gaydos that the investigation that was launched into the causes of the Yarnell Hill fire will look at the tiniest of details to reveal what caused the fire to grow so quickly.
“They will look at every aspect of the fire from every possible angle,” Paxon said.
Paxon also mentioned advancements in technology that can help the National Weather Service look at smoke formation coming from the fire as well as the height of the smoke to determine where the wind was blowing.
The investigation team made up of “specialists from all over the nation” will also be looking at the structural organization of the hotshots to see if there was any error coming from above.
“They will look at all of the plans and the safety briefings and the command structure; if they had good radio communication… if they raised any issues. They will even look at the texts and e-mails and phone records,” Paxon told Mac & Gaydos.
When asked by Mac if people would be useful to the investigations by retelling their personal accounts, Paxon said that the best witness was going to be the evidence left by the fire.
“The physical evidence on the ground and the weather records are going to point out to a whole lot.”
Praising the fallen crew, Paxon told Mac & Gaydos that the weather conditions were the ultimate cause of the tragedy.
“As an old firefighter, these guys did a lot of things right, but the variables of nature were a perfect storm and there were tragic consequences,” he said.
Paxon said that he hopes the investigation will yield results that could help give closure to the families and help firefighters in the future.
“They will look at even the minutest details in an effort to try to find out why they died and what we can do to keep this from happening to firefighters in the future.”
On Tuesday, nearly 600 firefighters were battling the mountain blaze and an 8 percent containment figure announced by officials brought news of the first sign of progress against the deadly blaze.
Since Sunday, containment had stood at zero percent.
The fire has burned about 13 square miles. Yavapai County authorities said about 200 homes and other structures were destroyed in Yarnell, a town of about 700 people. Hundreds were evacuated.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
For volunteer, fundraising and other ways to assist those affected by the Yarnell Hill Fire, go to yarnellfallenfirefighters.com.