On Sunday, June 30th 2013, an Arizona wildfire killed 19 firefighters, and it has now set a blaze over 8,400 acres. The fire engulfed over 2,000 acres Sunday night alone, and it is currently burning outside of Prescott, Arizona.
The firefighters were part of an elite force, called the Granite Mountain Hotshots. Officials report they lost their lives performing a very risky maneuver as a last ditch effort to get the blaze under control before it could cause more damage. Unusually hot conditions as well as strong winds have created extreme conditions which has made it difficult to contain the fire.
The 19 men who lost their lives Sunday trying to protect homes from the expanding blaze were part of a greater effort of over 400 firefighters attempting to combat the fire. The Arizona wildfire was sparked by a lightning strike, and the National Fire Director for the US Forest Service, Tom Harbor, said it was the deadliest in the United States in 80 years.
In a press conference today, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer said her heart breaks over the loss of the firefighters and the loss their families, friends, and communities are facing. She asked that all flags at state buildings and facilities be flown at half-mast to honor the sacrifice of the fallen men through Wednesday. The names of the fallen were just released which consisted of a group of exceptionally brave men ranging from age 21 to age 36. All of the fallen were members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots Team that was killed in Sunday’s blaze. Only one member of the team survived the tragedy.
Officials have little information as to what caused the expertly trained group of men to be overwhelmed and the situation will be investigated further. The fire is still has not been contained, and more firefighters are on their way to assist continued efforts to bring the fire under control. Other emergency personnel and the communities surrounding the blaze have shelters in place for the families that are being evacuated from the area. This tragedy serves as a reminder to people across the country of the dangerous work and sacrifice first responders face every day.
Logan Keziah is a News Correspondent for Social Work Helper. She is a BSW student at East Carolina University in Greenville who plans to go on to graduate school for a Masters in Social Work. She is actively involved in North Carolina politics, and is interested in policy, advocacy, social justice, and women's issues.