A new investigation into the raging fire that killed 19 elite firefighters in Arizona has revealed that some of the events which occurred may have been avoidable. Communication equipment problems resulted in 33 minutes of radio silence during which no one heard from the Granite Mountain Hotshots, and commanders didn’t make radio contact with them either. It was in this period of time that the crew left what was believed to be a safe spot on a ridge that had already been consumed by fire to seek another safe location, unknowingly walking to their own deaths in a basin thick with dry brush.
The 120-page report by a team of local, state and federal fire experts indicates that problems with radios and proper communication more than likely led to the deaths of the firefighters. At one point, a pilot circling overhead in an airtanker wanted to check on the firefighters after hearing over the radio that they might be on the move, but commanders were under the impression the crew was already safe.
Ted Putnam, a former investigator for the U.S. Forest Service, said that the report didn’t go into enough detail to understand what actually happened. Shari Turbyfill, a woman who lost her stepson in the blaze, implored officials to draw stronger conclusions about why the crew died, and what immediate changes can be made. Her husband, David, added that the emergency fire shelter in which his 27-year-old son Travis died had not been improved in 13 years.
Despite the various faults that were uncovered, the report also stated that proper procedures were followed throughout. This led investigators to suggest the state of Arizona should update its guidelines and look into better tracking technology. There is still the question of why the elite firefighters didn’t make any further radio communication after realizing their situation, but this is information that cannot be uncovered no matter how detailed the report.
Via Huffington Post
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