Preliminary reports released on 19 firefighters who died in Ariz. fire

July 5, 2013 at 7:47 AM
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PRESCOTT, Ariz., July 5 (UPI) -- The 19 elite firefighters killed in an Arizona wildfire died of fire-related injuries such as burns and inhalation problems, preliminary autopsies indicated.

As the Maricopa County Medical Examiner's Office released its preliminary reports Thursday on the Granite Mountain Hotshots killed Sunday, some evacuees began to return to their homes and firefighters gained more control over the Yarnell Hill fire, The Arizona Republic in Phoenix reported.

Cari Gerchick, a Maricopa County spokeswoman, said all of the Hotshots died of fire-related injuries -- burns to the body and inhalation problems that could include carbon-monoxide poisoning or lack of oxygen.

The Maricopa County Medical Examiner's Office finished the autopsies Wednesday and the firefighters' families were notified.

A full autopsy report on each firefighter is expected to be completed and released within a couple of months, Gerchick said.

A memorial service for the firefighters, based in Prescott, is scheduled for Tuesday, the Republic said.

Firefighting officials said the Yarnell Hill fire had been largely reduced to hot spots after burning 8,400 acres.

Operations section chief Carl Schwope said he expected full containment "sometime before July 12." It was 85 percent contained as of Thursday night.

The fire had been tamed enough that the Yavapai County Sheriff's Office lifted the evacuation of Peeples Valley Thursday evening although some residents said they would remain in shelters for one more night, the Republic said.

Yarnell remained under an evacuation order.

Sheriff's officials have expressed concerns some residents of Yarnell and Peeples Valley who did not leave could have been killed, stressing they have no evidence of additional deaths, the Republic said.

Officials said they would conduct a house-to-house search as soon as it becomes safe.

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