Arizona Agency Fined $559,000 Over Blaze That Killed 19 Firefighters

A report released Wednesday cited several problems with the way the mission was handled by the Arizona Division of Forestry.

The Yarnell Hill Fire burns on June 30, 2013. AP Photo/The Arizona Republic, David Kadlubowski, File

An Arizona state agency has been fined $559,000 for wrongly putting the protection of “structures and pastureland” ahead of the safety of those fighting the Yarnell Hill fire that left 19 elite firefighters dead, officials said Wednesday.

A report cited several problems with the way the mission was handled by the Arizona Division of Forestry that resulted in 19 members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots losing their lives on June 30.

The report said members of the firefighting crew were tired, having just returned from fighting two fires, and that exhaustion could have affected their judgment. The state forestry division kept the firefighters on the mountains even after commanders realized they could not control the flames and safety officers arrived too late.

In addition, the report accuses the state agency for failing to conduct a complexity analysis and determining multiple escape routes in advance.

The team in charge of running firefighting operations was also faulted for being understaffed, and therefore unable to cohesively manage the fire.

The findings of the occupational safety and health division differ from the findings of a state forestry division investigation that was released in September, which mentioned radio failure, but no human recklessness.

Fire trucks pass under the American flag during a ceremony to honor Granite Mountain Hotshot firefighters on July 10, 2013. Steve Lundy / Via Daily Herald

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Michelle Broder Van Dyke is a reporter and night editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in Hawaii.
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