YARNELL, Ariz July 1, 2013 – High heat, dry ground and lightning are the suspected causes of the Yarnell Hill Fire, Yarnell, Ariz where 18 firefighters died today.
Prescott Fire Department spokesman Wade Ward confirmed to the Prescott Daily Courier newspaper that the members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots died fighting the fire.
Hotshots are elite firefighting teams that normally contain a 20-person crew that works to clear brush and build a field break in order to stop wildfire. Nineteen firefighters were killed while digging a fire line.
The Hotshots were among some 160 first responders battling the blaze. As the fires encompassing some 2,000 acres are expanding, a Type 2 Incident Management Team expects the number of responders to swell to as many as 400.
The Yarnell Hill Fire started Friday night and the evacuation of homes in the Buckhorn, Model Creek, and Double A Bar Ranch areas about 85 miles northwest of Phoenix were started Sunday morning, followed by evacuations ordered by the Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office that expanded to the Peeples Valley area and the town of Yarnell where homes have been burned.
The Arizona Department of Transportation cautions motorists should be on alert when driving in the area. Parts of State Route 89 have been closed due to the fire. The closure extends from milepost 269 to milepost 285. Interstate 17 or US 93 are being suggested as alternate routes.
The American Red Cross has opened a shelter at Yavapai College in Prescott, the sheriff’s office said.
(Associated Press contributed to this story)
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