Report: Why doomed Yarnell firefighters left ridge unknown

Sept. 28, 2013 at 10:40 PM
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PRESCOTT, Ariz., Sept. 28 (UPI) -- Why 19 firefighters killed in Arizona's Yarnell fire left the relative safety of an already-burned ridge remains a mystery, a report showed Saturday.

The 120-page report by the Yarnell Hill Fire Serious Accident Investigation Team notes there was a 30-minute period when officials lost contact with the doomed Granite Mountain Hotshots but found "no indication of negligence, recklessness actions, or violations of policy or protocol" by the Prescott firefighters, The Arizona Republic reported. The investigators concluded the wildfire that overran the men was not survivable.

But why the elite firefighters descended from the ridge into the bowl where they became trapped and killed remains a mystery, the newspaper said.

The report states fire commanders assumed until too late that the team was still on the ridge.

"We don't have it. That decision-making process went with those men," said Florida State Forester Jim Karels, who led the investigation. "I try and step back and stand on that mountain where that crew was and try to figure out what they did and why."

Gov. Jan Brewer, in a statement Saturday afternoon, commended the investigative team for its "swift, expert work to examine and report the facts that led to the tragedy."

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