Yarnell Hill Fire Chapter X

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Please begin Chapter X of the Yarnell Hill Fire discussion here. Once again, do not include more than one link in your comment in order to avoid the spam folder.

Please refrain from personal attacks. Stay focused on what is known and what is not known.

Thank you, John

Chapter I, Chapter II, Chapter II supplement, Chapter III, Chapter IV, Chapter V, Chapter VI, Chapter VII and Chapter VIII and Chapter IX.

InvestigativeMEDIA posts first set of Forest Service videos

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InvestigativeMEDIA has posted 12 of the 21 videos released by the U.S. Forest Service in response to its October 13, 2014 Freedom of Information Act request.

The videos are being uploaded directly to a Dropbox account from  the DVD the Forest Service mailed to InvestigativeMEDIA in early November.

The remaining 9 videos will be uploaded as soon as technical issues related to uploading very large files to the Dropbox folder are resolved.

Forest Service releases Yarnell Hill Fire videos to InvestigativeMEDIA

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The U.S. Forest Service has released to InvestigativeMEDIA the same set of Yarnell Hill Fire videos the Arizona Forestry Division posted on its website on Saturday, Nov. 8.

InvestigativeMEDIA filed a Freedom of Information Act request for the videos on Oct. 13. There is no indication that the Arizona Forestry Division filed a separate Freedom of Information Act request for the documents. The Forest Service has not provided an explanation of why the Forestry Division received the videos prior to InvestigativeMEDIA. The division states it received the videos on Nov. 7.

The 21 videos containing 43 minutes and one second of footage were embedded on a DVD-ROM disc that was sent by U.S. mail to InvestigativeMEDIA and received on Nov. 12.

“In response to your request, we conducted a search for responsive electronic and hard copy records, everywhere a reasonably knowledgeable professional could expect to find responsive records,” Tom Harbour, Forest Service Director of Fire and Aviation Management, wrote in an accompanying letter dated Nov. 7.

Harbour stated four of the videos were redacted under an exemption to the Freedom of Information Act.

One video was redacted three seconds to the blur the face of a private party, a second  video was redacted in two places “to protect the discussion of a personal telephone number”, and two other videos were edited to remove images of bodies of the 19 Granite Mountain Hotshots who perished on June 30, 2013 in the Yarnell Hill Fire.

It is unknown why the videos were not made available to investigators in 2013. The Forestry Division released its Serious Accident Investigation Report in September 2013. The Arizona Department of Occupational Safety and Health released its investigation in December.

The Forest Service’s failure to provide the videos to investigators last year is particularly troubling because one of the 21 newly released videos was provided to the Arizona Forestry Division and included in its supplemental records released last December.

The Forestry Division identifies this video as exhibit “A-22 HelmetCamVideo“.

The video includes the audio of Granite Mountain’s desperate calls for help moments before flames engulfed the crew. This video was widely publicized in the media. The newly released videos include clips that were recorded immediately prior and after the HelmetCamVideo released last year.

Most of the videos were taken by a Prescott National Forest firefighter through a video camera that was attached to his helmet.

Three Prescott National Forest firefighters, including the individual with the helmet camera, joined two commanders of the Blue Ridge Hotshots in conducting a ground search for Granite Mountain.  A Department of Public Safety helicopter dropped off a medic who discovered the bodies a few minutes before the ground crew reached the entrapment site about 600 yards west of the Boulder Springs Ranch in Yarnell.

Analysis of the newly released videos and accompanying audio is ongoing to determine whether any new information surfaces that can explain why the Granite Mountain Hotshots left a safe area in a burned over zone on the top of the Weaver Mountains west of Yarnell and descended into brushy box canyon sometime after 4 p.m. after the fire had reversed direction and was moving towards the town.

State Forestry Division Releases New Yarnell Hill Fire Video In Response to InvestigativeMEDIA’s Public Records Request

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The Arizona State Forestry Division Saturday released additional video taken by Prescott National Forest firefighters during the Yarnell Hill Fire that killed 19 Granite Mountain Hotshots on June 30, 2013 in response to an Oct. 11 public records request filed by InvestigativeMEDIA.

The Forestry Division posted the videos on its website Saturday afternoon. All of the newly released videos are posted at the end of this story.

“On November 7, 2014, the following video clips were received by Arizona State Forestry through a Freedom of Information Act request to the US Forest Service,” the division stated in a press release posted on its website.

“To be transparent with the public, the videos are presented exactly as they have been received.  The redactions were done before these videos came into the possession of Arizona State Forestry,” the division stated.

An eight-minute segment of the video taken by the Prescott National Forest firefighters was released last year and contained the dramatic audio of Granite Mountain Hotshots’ desperate calls for help moments before they were killed in a ferocious wildfire.  The segment is included in the supplemental records that accompanied the Forestry Division’s Serious Accident Investigation Report into the tragedy and identified as “Exhibit A-22 HelmetCamVideo”. The supplemental records were released last winter and are posted here.

InvestigativeMEDIA learned that there was additional video taken by the PNF firefighters and filed  a series of public records with state and federal agencies for the video. [Read more…]