US & Canada

Report into lethal Arizona fire identifies radio problems

The Granite Mountain Interagency Hotshot Crew is shown in this undated handout photo provided by the City of Prescott 1 July 2013
Image caption The dead firefighters were members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots

An investigation into the deaths of 19 firefighters in Arizona on 30 June has found that inadequate communication played a role in their fate.

The dead men, members of an elite unit called the Granite Mountain Hotshots, were killed as they battled a wildfire near the town of Yarnell.

The report authors describe radio communications as "challenging throughout the incident".

The investigators found no evidence of negligence or reckless behaviour.

The report found that "brief, informal, and vague radio transmissions" meant that few people in the operation as a whole understood the team's intentions, movements and location once they left the relative safety of a ridge, where vegetation was burnt off, and went down into a valley where there was thick vegetation.

The 19 men were deploying fire shelters when the fire overtook them. The situation was "not survivable," the investigation concludes.

Image caption The site where the men were killed (beyond the fence) was "not survivable"

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