Hot winds blew an Arizona blaze out of control Sunday in a forest northwest of Phoenix, overtaking and killing 19 members of an elite fire crew in the deadliest wildfire involving firefighters in the U.S. for at least 40 years – and the worst since the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center on 9/11/2001.
The Granite Mountain Hot Shots, established in 2002, were an elite ground firefighting crew known for their innovative problem-solving and history of safe, aggressive fire suppression. Members of the crew were highly trained, came from diverse backgrounds, and worked long hours in extreme environmental conditions doing the most demanding of fireline tasks.
They carried 50-70 pounds on their back, hiked seven miles or more to where they needed to work, and worked up to 14 hours, sometimes longer. The average age of the men in the hotshot crew was 22-years-old.The firefighters were members of a “hotshot” crew – the ‘Granite Mountain Hotshots’, tasked with digging a firebreak and creating an escape route. ”A hotshot crew are the elite firefighters,” state forestry spokesman Art Morrison said. “They’re usually a 20-person crew, and they’re the ones who actually go in and dig the fire line, cut the brush to make a fuel break. And so they would be as close to the fire as they felt they safely could.”
They have now completed their assignments and will have eternal rest!