The Arizona State Forestry Division has posted 21 videos that chronicle the final moments of the Granite Mountain Hotshots, who died while fighting the Yarnell Hill Fire in central Arizona.
Triggered by a lightning strike near the community of Yarnell, the wind-driven fire trapped the 19 Hotshots on the afternoon of June 30, 2013, and all 19 men perished.
The Arizona Forestry Division obtained the videos from the U.S. Forest Service through a Freedom of Information Act request. The state agency notes that “the videos are presented exactly as they have been received,” and that the redactions in several of the videos were made before the agency received them.
The first three videos appear to show the Blue Ridge Hotshots, who arrived on the morning of June 30, burning brush between a road and the wildfire.
The rest of the videos show fire and rescue personnel in the area as they anxiously await for word from the Granite Mountain Hotshots, and later as they search for the 19 firefighters. Some of the videos feature little more than radio chatter, which spins a chilling narrative of the Hotshots’ final moments.
In a radio conversation in this video, a Granite Mountain member tells an unidentified fire official that the Hotshots plan to evacuate after trying to save some residential structures in the fire's path.
This video shows the rapidly changing conditions in the area. One firefighter notes that there are "40-mph winds in Skull Valley right now." Another says, "We need to get everybody out of here."
In this video, voices on the radio and firefighters in the video try to determine the status of the Hotshots. One firefighter says, "I can't hear anything from Eric [Marsh]," superintendent of the Hotshots. The firefighter assumes that the 19 Hotshots "are probably in their shelters right now." A voice on the radio speculates that the Hotshots are in "the southeast corner of the fire," "where we had that wind shift and [the fire] did a slope reversal."
In this video, we hear Marsh frantically tell a dispatcher that the crew's escape route has been cut off. "We are preparing a deployment site," he says. "We are burning out around ourselves in the brush, and I'll give you a call when we are under the shelters."