An Arizona commission has approved a nearly $560,000 fine against the state Forestry Division in the deaths of 19 firefighters.
On Wednesday, Arizona Division of Occupational Safety and Health inspectors released their investigation of the way Arizona State Forestry Division handled the Yarnell Hill Fire. Lightning started the blaze June 28 on a peak in the Weaver Mountains, west Yarnell.
Investigators concluded the behavior of the Yarnell Hill Fire exceeded expectations of managers and firefighters, and the Forestry Division, that oversaw the blaze, allegedly failed to implement its own guidelines and procedures. The report goes on to say that management failed to recognize their resources and strategy could not succeed. The report said the Forestry Division did not adequately assess the risks once the fire escaped the initial attack.
"Firefighting efforts to control the fire on Sunday, June 30, 2013 were futile," ADOSH's report states. "On that day the fire burned over 8,000 acres of wildland, over 114 structures, and resulted in multiple instances of firefighters being unnecessarily and unreasonably exposed to the deadly hazards of wildland firefighting, the most catastrophic being the entrapment, burn-over, and deaths of 19 member of the Granite Mountain IHC."
The report also details how a division supervisor for the Granite Mountain Hotshot area left his post during critical moments on the day the firefighters died.
The citations proposed Wednesday by the ADOSH say forestry officials managing the Yarnell Hill Fire violated safety standards and suggest the need to protect structures and land were placed higher than the safety of the 19 Prescott Granite Mountain Hotshots who perished on June 30.
The proposals also say that downwind crews weren't removed when suppression became ineffective.
Included in the fine is $25,000 for each family that lost a loved one in the fire.
ADOSH presented the proposals to the state Industrial Commission at a meeting in Phoenix Wednesday afternoon and the commission voted Wednesday in favor of the recommended fine.
Following the vote, a ASFD spokesperson said they would not be releasing a statement at this time, saying they "need time to read and digest it."
The ASFD employs 131 full time and seasonal employees.
A separate report into the circumstances surrounding the June 30 deaths of the firefighters found communications lapses but concluded that proper procedure was followed.
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