Forestry official admits making comments to InvestigativeMEDIA

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Arizona Deputy State Forester Jerry Payne has confirmed that he made the comments attributed to him by InvestigativeMEDIA in a July 30 article in which Payne was quoted as saying the leader of the Granite Mountain Hotshot squads made mistakes in the moments leading up to his death and the deaths of 18 members of his crew.

Carrie Dennett, a forestry division spokeswoman, is quoted by Howard Fischer of Capitol Media Services as saying Payne “did admit making the comments.”

In the story posted Wednesday, Fischer reports, “The dispute he (Payne) has with the (InvestigativeMEDIA) report, Dennett said, is that it did not make clear that this was just his personal opinion and not part of any official finding or statement.”

Capitol Media Services also reported that Gov. Jan Brewer said Wednesday that Payne expressed his own opinion about the deaths during the Yarnell Hill Fire. But she said any such conclusions were premature, as the investigation is ongoing. Continue reading

Official: Granite Mountain Hotshot leader Eric Marsh violated safety protocols while acting as a “division supervisor”

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By John Dougherty

PHOENIX—Eric Marsh, the superintendent of the Granite Mountain Hotshot crew, violated wildfire safety protocols when he and 18 of his firefighters were killed in the Yarnell Hill Fire on June 30, Jerry Payne, the Arizona State Forestry Division deputy director, said Monday.

Marsh, 43, was given wide latitude to make tactical decisions in the field without first seeking permission from a superior because was operating as a “division supervisor” for several crews fighting the fire while remaining in the field with the Granite Mountain Hotshots, Payne said.

A Granite Mountain Hotshot t-shirt is draped over a cactus. The shelter deployment site is behind. The crew descended into the box canyon from the saddle on the ridge.

A Granite Mountain Hotshot t-shirt is draped over a cactus. The shelter deployment site is behind. The crew descended into the box canyon from the saddle on the ridge.

“He (Marsh) was the boss. He was the assigned division supervisor,” Payne said.

Payne said that once Marsh became a division supervisor, he delegated command of the hot shot crew to his captain, Jesse Steed. But Marsh remained with the crew, Payne said. Continue reading