PRESCOTT, AZ - The Yarnell Hill wildfire will be remembered for being one of the most devastating in the country's history.
But not for it's size -- just 8,400 acres – or the 13 days it burned uncontained.
It's because of one number: 19.
It's the number of hotshot firefighters who died, making the Yarnell Hill wildfire the deadliest in Arizona history and the deadliest in the U.S. in 80 years.
An independent team of investigators released its serious accident report, which addresses the chain of events that led to the tragedy.
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The Granite Mountain Hotshots were killed on June 30 just before 5 p.m., records show.
A chain link fence now surrounds the spot where flames burned over the firefighters in a rocky canyon just outside the town of Yarnell.
In an interview at the scene in July, Darrell Willis, the crew's founder, said all 19 of the men died together, side by side.
So far, there are many unanswered questions about what led to this tragedy.
But here's what we do know.
After finishing an assignment on the other side of a ridge, the hotshots descended into a valley and began cutting fire lines to protect a nearby ranch. But by moving, the hotshots lost sight of the fire line. The weather would worsen, the winds would completely shift and push a wall of flames around a corner, trapping the men in a canyon and cutting off the hotshots' only escape route.
After the deaths, the State Forestry Division assembled an independent team of investigators, who've spent more months looking into what happened.
Their final report should address several of the major questions that have surfaced:
- Did the hotshots receive enough information about the changing weather conditions?
- Were they properly warned and was it soon enough?
- Did the hotshots or their supervisors break rules or protocols?
- There are also questions about whether the Granite Mountain Hotshots should have been deployed in the first place.
Officials have declined to discuss any specifics related to the investigation until it's over.
But the answers will hopefully come Saturday.
And while they may be painful and difficult to hear, officials admit they are necessary to prevent another disaster.