This is as dark a day as I can remember, with Arizona suffering the truly unimaginable loss of 19 wildland firefighters. They were battling the Yarnell Fire, near Prescott, when the fast-moving blaze overtook their position.
It may be days or longer before an investigation reveals how this tragedy occurred, but the essence we already know in our hearts: fighting fires is dangerous work. The risk is well-known to the brave men and women who don their gear and do battle against forest and flame.
When a tragedy like this strikes, all we can do is offer our eternal gratitude to the fallen, and prayers for the families and friends left behind. God bless them all.
President Barack Obama:
Yesterday, nineteen firefighters were killed in the line of duty while fighting a wildfire outside Yarnell, Arizona. They were heroes -- highly-skilled professionals who, like so many across our country do every day, selflessly put themselves in harm's way to protect the lives and property of fellow citizens they would never meet. In recent days, hundreds of firefighters have battled extremely dangerous blazes across Arizona and the Southwest. The federal government is already assisting, and we will remain in close contact with state and local officials to provide the support they need. But today, Michelle and I join all Americans in sending our thoughts and prayers to the families of these brave firefighters and all whose lives have been upended by this terrible tragedy.
It is with a heavy heart that we keep those lost in the Yarnell Fire in our thoughts and prayers tonight
Sen. John McCain
This evening, the families and loved ones of the brave firefighters who lost their lives battling the Yarnell Hill Fire in Central Arizona – as well as those still fighting the fire – are in the thoughts and prayers of all Americans. This devastating loss is a reminder of the grave risks our firefighters take every day on our behalf in Arizona and in communities across this nation. Their sacrifice will never be forgotten.
Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton:
Nicole and I join the people of Phoenix and the entire nation to express our deepest condolences to the families of the brave firefighters who lost their lives battling the Yarnell Hill fire. This terrible tragedy is one of the worst in the history of firefighting and a solemn reminder of the extraordinary danger our first responders face every day. I have spoken to the City Manager, and Phoenix stands prepared to help in any way. We can also confirm that none of the eight Phoenix firefighters assisting in battling the blaze were hurt in this tragedy.
Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano:
Today, our thoughts and prayers go out to the families and loved ones of the nineteen firefighters who lost their lives in the line of duty combating the wildfire outside Yarnell, Arizona. As thousands of their colleagues continue to fight wildfires across Arizona and the West, the Department of Homeland Security and FEMA are working closely with our federal partners including the Forest Service and the Department of Interior, to support state and local efforts. Our utmost priority is public safety and I urge residents in the impacted areas to continue to listen to local authorities and follow their guidance and instructions.
Sen. Jeff Flake:
I am sick at the news of the deaths of 19 firefighters battling the Yarnell Hill fire. It is an unspeakable tragedy for a town like Prescott and the surrounding communities to lose so many. My heart goes out to the firefighters' families. We are in touch with the White House and federal agencies to ensure that all necessary federal resources are being brought to bear on the situation.
Congressman Matt Salmon:
Last night, Arizona lost 19 heroes in the Yarnell blaze outside Prescott, Arizona. These brave firefighters fought on the front lines to protect our neighbors and families and their bravery and service to Arizona will be remembered forever. Tragedies like these remind us that our first responders so often sacrifice their own lives to protect their community. My heart goes out to the families and I ask you to join me and Nancy in praying for their comfort and healing.
U.S. Rep. Ron Barbers:
My thoughts and my prayers go out to the families of the 19 brave Arizona firefighters who died in the line of duty yesterday – battling to save the homes of people they may have never met, but who were part of a community they selflessly served each day.
This tragedy touches every Arizonan and every American. My son-in-law Jason is an Arizona firefighter and today my family takes special pause recognizing the lost lives of his colleagues and the immense grief and loss felt by their families and communities. We also pray for the safety of those who continue to battle the flames.
Few of us can fathom the courage that these firefighters exhibited as they ran into areas as others fled. Our fellow Arizonans gave their lives fulfilling the words and the spirit of "The Firefighter's Prayer:"
I want to fill my calling and
to give the best in me
to guard my neighbor and
protect his property
And if according to your will
I have to lose my life
bless with your protecting hand
my children and my wife.
Congressman Raul Grijalva:
Firefighters dedicate their careers to keeping the rest of us safe, and their bravery in the cause of protecting the public is sometimes taken for granted. It takes more courage and professionalism than we imagine to face a wall of fire with nothing but a small shelter for protection. These nineteen men died protecting other families' homes, doing what they believed in. Our gratitude for their efforts and our sorrow at their loss cannot easily be measured in words.