By John Dougherty
Also published August 21, 2013 in Phoenix New Times
Dave Turbyfill zooms in on a Google Earth map of a boulder-strewn box canyon just west of Yarnell, where his son and 18 other members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots died when they were overrun by a wall of flames on June 30.
It’s obvious he’s spent hours poring over maps as he tries to put himself in the boots of his son, Travis Turbyfill, in late-afternoon on the third day of the infamous Yarnell Hill Fire.
Not content to just look at images, Turbyfill has gone to the site where the men deployed their fire shelters as smoke enveloped them and 10-foot-high, drought-ravaged chaparral exploded into flames.
He’d hiked up through the boulder field, out of the box canyon to the ridgeline. He’d walked along the narrow two-track jeep trail that hugs the ridge. He’d wondered what the Granite Mountain Hotshot crew saw about 4 p.m. on June 30 and why it decided to leave relative safety and move down into a valley packed with unburned scrub.
On his hike, he’d looked north from his perch on the ridge, toward the community of Peeples Valley, which earlier that day was about to be engulfed by fire but was spared only when the flames reversed direction as a powerful thunderstorm churning from the northeast unleashed winds of 40-plus miles per hour. [Read more…]