Please Begin Yarnell Hill Fire Chapter XXVI Here

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Chapter I, Chapter II, Chapter II supplement, Chapter III, Chapter IV, Chapter V, Chapter VI, Chapter VII, Chapter VIII , Chapter IX,  Chapter X, Chapter XI, Chapter XII , Chapter XIII, Chapter XIV,  Chapter XV,  Chapter XVI, Chapter XVII, Chapter XVIII, Chapter XIX, Chapter XX, Chapter XXI, Chapter XXII, Chapter XXIII, Chapter XXIV and Chapter XXV.

Yarnell Hill Fire deaths were avoidable if crew had followed wildfire safety rules, research paper concludes

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Two former Interagency Hotshot Crew supervisors have published a research paper on the Yarnell Hill Fire disaster that concludes human errors were the primary factors that lead to the death of 19 members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots on June 30, 2013.

“Did they all perish in a predictable, and therefore, avoidable death-by-fire incident? Indeed, per the conclusion of these authors, they did,” Fred Schoeffler and Lance Honda state in the paper.

Their conclusion directly contradicts the findings of the Serious Accident Investigation Team that was contracted by the state of Arizona to review the incident. The SAIT concluded that there was “no indication of negligence, reckless actions, or violations of policy or protocol.”

Mr. Schoeffler was superintendent of the Payson Interagency Hotshot Crew for 27 years. He is suing the U.S. Forest Service for air-to-ground voice recordings and transcripts from the afternoon of June 30 in the moments leading up to the deaths of 19 out of 20 members of the crew.

Mr. Honda retired as a wildland firefighter in 2009 with 39 years experience including the last 12 years as superintendent of the Prineville (Ore.) Interagency Hotshot Crew.

The paper, entitled “Epic Human Failure on June 30, 2013“, was published by Springer International Publishing AG. The authors state that the crew’s leadership failed to follow well-known wildfire safety rules and that directly contributed to disaster.

“Almost every WFF (wildland firefighter) agrees that the (Yarnell Hill Fire) tragedy would have been impossible for 19 men to have died accordingly had they held to these tried-and-true WFF Rules,” the authors state.

The authors also state that Granite Mountain’s history of poor decisions was well known to other Interagency Hotshot Crews and that the disaster, horrific as it was, was not a surprising outcome.

“This was the final, fatal link, in a long chain of bad decisions with good outcomes, we saw this coming for years,” the paper quotes an unnamed Hotshot crew superintendent as saying during an October 2013 visit by wildland firefighters to the box canyon where the men died. Mr. Schoeffler was at the gathering.

“About 8 other Hot Shot Superintendents spoke and stated they had all attempted unsuccessfully over the years through peer pressure to get the (Granite Mountain Hotshots) to alter their unsafe actions,” the paper states.

Mother of deceased Granite Mountain Hotshot firefighter files petition with Arizona Supreme Court

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The mother of Granite Mountain Hotshot firefighter Grant McKee has filed a petition with the Arizona Supreme Court to review lower court decisions that rejected her wrongful death claim in connection with the death of her son during the Yarnell Hill Fire in 2013.

The petition, which was filed by Scottsdale attorney David L. Abney on behalf of Marcia McKee, raises four issues:

  • Whether the City of Prescott legally approved an Intergovernmental Agreement with the state that made McKee and the other 18 Granite Mountain Hotshots who died during the fire temporary state employees and therefore providing the state employer-based immunity from a wrongful death claim.
  • A jury should have been allowed to determine whether the state’s conduct in managing the Yarnell Hill Fire amounted to “willful misconduct” which would have nullified the state’s employer-based immunity protection.
  • Neither Grant McKee, or his mother asked for, nor accepted, any workers’ compensation benefits. Therefore, Marcia McKee did not waive her right to sue the state for causing her son’s wrongful death.
  • Is Marcia McKee entitled to assert claims of intentional infliction of emotional distress arising from the state causing her son to suffer a horrendous death and from the state’s cover-up of its wrongdoing?

Please begin Yarnell Hill Fire Chapter XXV here

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Chapter I, Chapter II, Chapter II supplement, Chapter III, Chapter IV, Chapter V, Chapter VI, Chapter VII, Chapter VIII , Chapter IX,  Chapter X, Chapter XI, Chapter XII , Chapter XIII, Chapter XIV,  Chapter XV,  Chapter XVI, Chapter XVII, Chapter XVIII, Chapter XIX, Chapter XX, Chapter XXI, Chapter XXII, Chapter XXIII and Chapter XXIV.

 

Questions remain three years after Yarnell Hill Fire disaster

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Hearses carrying the bodies of Granite Mountain Hotshots passes through Peeples Valley. Photo By John Dougherty

Hearses carrying the bodies of Granite Mountain Hotshots pass through Peeples Valley, AZ. Photo By John DoughertyNews Analysis

News Analysis

Jasper, Alberta—Three years ago today, at 4:42 p.m., 19 members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots were killed when a fast-moving wildfire entrapped them in a box canyon at the base of the Weaver Mountains west of Yarnell, AZ.

Since that day of wildland firefighting infamy, three books have been published that have yet to answer why the men were in a location they should never have been. And now, a major Hollywood movie is in production that will ultimately completely distort what happened on that tragic afternoon. (How could you, Jeff Bridges?)

More than 22,000 comments have been posted on this site, some of which have helped piece together much of what happened on the worst day of firefighting in the history of Interagency Hotshot Crews after two state-sponsored investigations failed to provide a clear explanation.

But the ultimate “Why”, remains sealed, locked in the code of silence that permeates the world of wildland firefighting where the fear of telling the truth falls a distant third to securing a high-dollar government pension and avoid being blacklisted.

[Read more…]

SW wildfire agencies issue updated structure protection rules

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The Southwest Coordinating Group this week released an updated guideline for fighting wildfires in the “Wildland Urban Interface” and for structural protection.

“SWCG’s first and foremost intent is to protect human life (i.e. keep our firefighters and the public safe),” states the June 17 memo sent to Southwest Agency Administrators, incident commanders and zone chairs.

“Secondly, once firefighter and public safety has been established, firefighting responders and resources will work aggressively to keep any wildfire away from structures and communities.

“All strategies and tactics will be based on this intent; fully understanding we will not be able to protect structures in every situation.

“Management of risk to responders, fire behavior, resource availability, and other critical factors will all dictate and/or contribute to the appropriate strategy/strategies implemented.”

The memo was sent to the Arizona State Forestry Division, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service, New Mexico State Forestry Division, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Forest Service.

The memo concludes stating: “Wildland fire resources across the Southwest generally do not have the responsibility per policy as well as the the capability and training to perform structure fire suppression actions.”