Story Summary

Arizona wildfire kills 19 firefighters

19 firefighters die in Arizona blaze

They were part of an elite squad who confronted wildfires up close, setting up barriers to stop the spreading destruction.

But the inferno blazing across central Arizona proved too much, even for the shelters the 19 firefighters carried as a last-ditch survival too

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In Zion Thursday night, family and friends gathered for celebration of 23-year-old Tony Rose’s life.

Rose was one of 19 firefighters, Hotshots they were called, who died June 30 while battling a forest fire in Arizona.

Rose was from Beach Park.  He was engaged and the couple was expecting their first child. Rose’s brother, Alex Sperry,  said he loved being a firefighter, loved the adrenaline rush.

Tony Rose’s funeral is tomorrow. It is private.

The remains of Tony Rose, a firefighter who was killed battling a wildfire in Arizona are return to the Chicago area to a Hero’s Salute in Waukegan.

Most of the men and women gathered tonight didn’t know the young firefighter personally.  But they showed up in strong numbers at Waukegan National Airport in support of him and his family.

23-year-old Anthony Rose was one of 19 firefighters killed while battling a wildfire in Arizona last month.

Tonight his body, which had been cremated, arrived from Arizona on a chartered flight.

Rose grew up in Beach Park, where his family still lives.

The Beach Park Fire Dept led the effort to organize tonight’s ceremony.

Firefighters , along with several local police officers, lined the entrance to the main runway, saluting as Rose’s remains were escorted off the plane and into the care of his family.

Even though Rose never served in Illinois, firefighters say it’s important that he be honored.

More than 40 surrounding fire departments from Illinois and Wisconsin were here to pay their respects.

The body of a firefighter who was killed battling a wildfire in Arizona will return to the Chicago area today.

The body of Tony Rose will be brought to Beach Park tonight, to a hero’s salute.

Members of the local fire department will be among those escorting his body from the airport to the funeral home for services, which will be held in the next few days.

Rose grew up in Beach Park.

He was among 19 firefighters killed battling the wildfire in Arizona a week and a half ago.

Friends and family gathered in a northern suburb tonight to honor and remember a fallen firefighter killed in the wildfire blaze in Arizona last month.

Tony Rose grew up in Winthrop Harbor with a love of firefighting and of skateboarding.
Dozens of his friends and some family chose a skatepark to come together and remember him tonight.  Tony spent a lot of time there as a teenager with those friends.
He is one of 19 firefighters who died fighting the wildfire in Arizona on June 30th, a member of the Granite Mountain Hotshots.
Earlier today, in Prescott Arizona, there was a massive turnout for a memorial service which paid tribute to all 19 who were killed.
But in the northern suburbs tonight, it was all about Tony and his contributions to his firefighting brothers and to the people of Arizona.  Donations were taken for his baby girl, who’s due to be born in October.
Tony Rose’s body will be brought back here tomorrow night to a hero’s salute. Members of the Winthrop harbor fire department will be among those escorting his body from the airport to the funeral home for services to be held in the next few days.

A local group of therapy dogs and their handlers are traveling to Prescott, Arizona today to help the relatives of the nineteen firefighters who were killed Sunday.

Lutheran Church Charities’ K-9 comfort dogs  were invited to help them and members of the Prescott community.  Four of them flew out of O’Hare Aiport this morning and will meet up with other comfort dogs in Arizona.

The golden retrievers are specially trained to work with people of all ages during tragedies.   The dogs have traveled to other recent tragedies, including the Boston Marathon bombings and the Newtown, Connecticut school shootings.

“The dogs have a wonderful ability to help people.  They have a sixth sense of empathy and so they know when somebody is hurting,” said Tim Hetzner of the K-9 Comfort Dog Team.  “Fulfillment is helping people through whatever their loss is, or their crisis is, to help them heal.”

For more on the dogs, go to http://www.lutheranchurchcharities.org

They’ve responded to tragedies across the country from the shooting massacre in Sandy Hook to the tornado that hit Oklahoma.

Now an Addison group with comfort dogs has been invited to Arizona to help the community cope with the deadly wildfire there.

President of the Lutheran Church Charities, Tim Hetzner, spoke on the Evening News.

Lutheran Church Charities is collecting patches from fire department across Chicagoland to bring to the firefighters battling the wildfire in Arizona.

You can get patches to them until 4:00pm tomorrow.

For more information: http://www.lutheranchurchcharities.org/

Howe Firefighters

A Chicagoland native was among the firefighters killed in the deadly Arizona blaze.

Anthony Rose is from north suburban Zion.

He was a member of the elite hot-shot wildfire crew killed on Sunday.

Rose leaves behind a pregnant fiancee.

Firefighters in Arizona are fighting to get a handle on the deadliest wildfire in 80 years.  The Yarnell Hills fire has already burned nearly 8,400 acres northwest of Phoenix and it is zero percent contained.  Nineteen firefighters died in the blaze Sunday.

On Monday, the names of those victims were released publicly, as their fellow firefighters and members of the community gathered to remember them. The men were members of an elite group called the Granite Mountain Hotshots. The group was part of the Prescott Fire Department and trained to fight wildfires.

The details on how the group got caught in the fire are under investigation. The average age of the victims was 27. Three of the men were expecting new babies. One firefighter leaves behind his wife and four young children.

A local group of therapy dogs has been invited to Prescott to help the victims’ families and members of the community.

The specially trained dogs and their handlers from Lutheran Church Charities of Addison were invited to help comfort those in the area.

The dogs recently traveled to Moore, Oklahoma, after the deadly tornado there.

They’ve also traveled across the country to help those affected by other tragedies, including the Newtown, Connecticut, school shootings, the Boston Marathon bombings and Hurricane Sandy.

They were part of an elite squad confronting wildfires on the front line, setting up barriers to stop the spreading destruction. But in their unpredictable world, it doesn’t take much to turn a situation deadly.

In this case, a wind shift and other factors caused a central Arizona fire, which now spans 8,400 acres, to become erratic, said Mike Reichling, Arizona State Forestry Division spokesman.

Though the deaths are under investigation, the inferno appears to have proved too much, even for the shelters the 19 firefighters carried as a last-ditch survival tool.

“The fuels were very dry, the relative humidity was low, the wind was coming out of the south. It turned around on us because of monsoon action,” Reichling told CNN affiliate KNXV. “That’s what caused the deaths.

The firefighters — members of the Prescott Fire Department’s Granite Mountain Hotshots — were killed Sunday while fighting the Yarnell Hill fire, northwest of Phoenix. Among the dead was Eric Marsh, the unit’s 43-year-old superintendent.

Also killed, according to the city of Prescott: Andrew Ashcraft, 29; Robert Caldwell, 23; Travis Carter, 31; Dustin Deford, 24; Christopher MacKenzie, 30; Grant McKee, 21; Sean Misner, 26; Scott Norris, 28; Wade Parker, 22; John Percin, 24; Anthony Rose, 23; Jesse Steed, 36; Joe Thurston, 32; Travis Turbyfill, 27; William Warneke, 25; Clayton Whitted, 28; Kevin Woyjeck, 21; and Garret Zuppiger, 27.

The deaths of the 19 — representing about 20 percent of Prescott’s fire department — devastated the city. Prescott Fire Chief Dan Fraijo, who sent the unit at the request of regional authorities, said he was told that one of the firefighters had radioed they were about to deploy their fire shelters, a sort of aluminum blanket that protects against the flames and heat — and a measure of last resort.

All he could do was wait. Only heartbreak followed.

“We just lost 19 of some of the finest people you’ll ever meet. Right now, we’re in crisis,” Fraijo told reporters.

A 20th member of the unit was working on an assignment away from his team and survived, Fraijo said.

“He feels terribly, and we all feel terribly. Unfortunately, we have very few words to express that kind of sorrow, but we understood each other. When you take a person in your arms and you hug them, you don’t have to say too much,” he said.

A tribute to the firefighters grew Monday outside Prescott Fire Station No. 7. Flowers, American flags and signs — including those reading “19 Great guys gone — you will be missed” and “Prescott 19 forever in our hearts” — were placed on or near a fence that separated the station from a road. The tokens also included 19 bottles of water, arranged in a circle.

Also left was a copy of The Firefighter’s Prayer, which contains the lines, “And if, according to my fate, I am to lose my life/Please bless with your protecting hand my children and my wife.”

Gov. Jan Brewer called the loss “unbearable” during a Monday news conference and said she understood the pain people are dealing with.

“For now, we mourn,” she said.

The wildfire, which is considered the deadliest in state history, began Friday near Yarnell, apparently because of lightning strikes, according to Brewer’s office and other authorities. The fire wasn’t contained at all on Monday morning, and about 200 homes and other structures have burned in the area of Yarnell, a community of about 600 people, the state forestry division said.

About 400 ground personnel and 100 incident-management staff were working to control the fire Monday.

There are no other reported injuries from the blaze, Reichling said.

“As we face the day the highest priority is for the fallen comrades,” said Roy Hall, an incident commander with the state forestry division. “We got a lot of hotshot crews in the nation, and they are the elite of the ground firefighters. They’re highly trained and highly specialized. They are a younger generation. That’s the tragedy of it, that lives would be lost of such a young group.”

He added of the fire, “We know that there are values to be protected and efforts that need to be ongoing in this fire. It’s a long ways from being over.”

Firefighters will work on the eastern side of the fire in an effort to protect homes in evacuated areas, as air tankers drop fire retardant on the perimeter and five helicopters douse hot spots with water.

Billows of thick black smoke covered the sky as the giant flames leaped from one stretch of parched land to another. With high temperatures — it hit 98 degrees in Yarnell on Monday — and dry fuel in the fire’s path, firefighters faced tough conditions in a race to contain the blaze.

Hotshot crews are elite firefighters

Sunday was the deadliest day for firefighters since the 9/11 attacks. And it is the deadliest wildland fire since 1933, when 25 firefighters died as a blaze burned in light chaparral near Griffith Park, California, according to a list from the U.S. National Wildfire Coordinating Group.

Mary Rasmussen, spokeswoman for the incident command team charged with fighting the blaze, said the cause of the firefighters’ deaths is being investigated, and answers might come in the next three days.

Authorities have information that during the blaze, the firefighters deployed their fire shelters. The shelters must be timed well. Set it up too soon, and the heat inside the shelter can become suffocating. Deploy it too late, and the fire is already on top of you.

Wearing gloves, a firefighter will lie on the ground under the shelter, the ground being the only thing keeping the firefighter cool. The shelter will block 100% of the heat from flames and hot gases and 95% of the radiant heat from the flames themselves.

Drivers fleeing the area were chased by dark plumes filling the air. Some evacuees paused to look from afar, wondering if the flames had torched their homes.

The blaze hadn’t touched Prescott yet. But like many other fire departments across the state, the Prescott team jumped in to help.

“A hotshot crew are the elite firefighters,” state forestry spokesman Art Morrison said. “They’re usually (a) 20-person crew, and they’re the ones who actually go in and dig the fire line, cut the brush to make a fuel break. And so they would be as close to the fire as they felt they safely could.”

“In normal circumstances, when you’re digging fire line, you make sure you have a good escape route, and you have a safety zone set up,” Morrison said. “Evidently, their safety zone wasn’t big enough, and the fire just overtook them.”

‘Words cant describe the loss’

One of the firefighters — Woyjeck, the son of a Los Angeles County fire captain — joined the Prescott unit just three months ago.

Woyjeck, an avid outdoorsman, always wanted to be a firefighter like his father, Joe Woyjeck told “Anderson Cooper 360″ on Monday evening.

Joe Woyjeck said he last talked to his son by phone on Sunday morning.

“He said, ‘Dad, we got a fire in Yarnell, Arizona. … I’ll give you a call later,’” the elder Woyjeck recalled.

He said it hasn’t sunk in yet that he won’t get that phone call.

“Words can’t describe the loss that our family is feeling right now,” Joe Woyjeck said.

Kevin Woyjeck wasn’t the only firefighter’s son in the Granite Mountain crew. MacKenzie was the son of retired California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection Capt. Mike MacKenzie, according to that department.

‘They were heroes’

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano urged residents in the area to heed local authorities’ instructions, while lamenting the loss of so many firefighters.

“Today, our thoughts and prayers go out to the families and loved ones of the 19 firefighters who lost their lives in the line of duty,” she said in a written statement. “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.”

President Barack Obama also lauded the efforts of the fallen firefighters, saying their deaths are heartbreaking and “our thoughts and prayers go out” to their families. His administration stands ready to help in any way necessary, he said.

“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,” he said in an earlier statement.

Brewer, who was to visit Prescott on Monday, said the loss marked “as dark a day as I can remember.” She has ordered state flags be flown at half-staff from sunrise Monday to sunset Wednesday, and issued an emergency declaration that will make $200,000 available for response and recovery, while authorizing mobilization of the National Guard, if necessary.

“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,” she said.

“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.”

Fraijo said the firefighters who died were exceptionally dedicated to their jobs.

“These are the guys that will go out there with 40, 50 pounds of equipment and walk five miles. They’ll sleep out there as they try to develop fire lines” to protect homes, Fraijo said.

Before the 19 deaths in Arizona, 43 firefighters had been killed so far in 2013, according to the U.S. Fire Administration. A total of 83 firefighters died last year while on duty.

A Facebook page in memory of the Arizona firefighters garnered more than 120,000 “likes” in less than 10 hours.

“Such a tragic loss,” one person wrote. “My heart aches for these brave souls, and for their families and friends.”
TM & © 2013 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.

They were part of an elite squad confronting wildfires on the front line, setting up barriers to stop the spreading destruction. But in their unpredictable world, it doesn’t take much to turn a situation deadly.

In this case, a wind shift and other factors caused a central Arizona fire, which now spans almost 9,000 acres, to become erratic, said Mike Reichling, Arizona State Forestry Division spokesman.

The inferno proved too much, even for the shelters the 19 firefighters carried as a last-ditch survival tool.

“The fuels were very dry, the relative humidity was low, the wind was coming out of the south. It turned around on us because of monsoon action,” Reichling told CNN affiliate KNXV. “That’s what caused the deaths.

The firefighters were killed Sunday while fighting the Yarnell Hill fire, northwest of Phoenix.

Among the dead was Eric Marsh, superintendent of the Granite Mountain Hotshots, according to his father, John Marsh. Also killed: Kevin Woyjeck, according to Los Angeles County Fire Inspector Tony Akins; Chris Mackenzie, according to CNN affiliate KPHO, which spoke with Mackenzie’s father; and Andrew Ashcraft, according to the Arizona Republic newspaper, which attributed the news to Ashcraft’s wife.

A tribute to the firefighters has steadily grown outside Prescott Fire Station No. 7, CNN affiliate KTVK reported. Flags, flowers, balloons and 19 bottles of water are among the tokens left at the site to commemorate the firefighters. Many community members have left the memorial in tears, the station reported.

Also left was a copy of The Firefighter’s Prayer, which contains the lines, “And if, according to my fate, I am to lose my life/Please bless with your protecting hand my children and my wife.”

Gov. Jan Brewer called the loss “unbearable” during a Monday news conference and said she understood the pain people are dealing with.

“For now, we mourn,” she said.

The wildfire, which is considered the deadliest in state history, is not contained at all, according to Brewer’s office and other authorities. About 400 ground personnel and 100 incident-management staff are working to control it.

There are no other reported injuries from the blaze, Reichling said.

“As we face the day the highest priority is for the fallen comrades,” said Roy Hall, an incident commander with the state forestry division. “We got a lot of hotshot crews in the nation, and they are the elite of the ground firefighters. They’re highly trained and highly specialized. They are a younger generation. That’s the tragedy of it, that lives would be lost of such a young group.”

He added of the fire, “We know that there are values to be protected and efforts that need to be ongoing in this fire. It’s a long ways from being over.”

Firefighters will work on the eastern side of the fire in an effort to protect homes in evacuated areas, as air tankers drop fire retardant on the perimeter and five helicopter douse hot spots with water.

Temperature could soar as high as 102 degrees, and with a chance of thunderstorms, the fire’s behavior could again become erratic because of the gusts, high temperatures and dry fuel in the fire’s path.

Involved in the firefighting effort are 18 engines, 18 fire crews, two structure-protection vehicles and four bulldozers. Commanders have ordered more hotshot crews, firefighting personnel and equipment.

Five members of the New York Fire Department incident management team are being sent to assist with management, logistics and strategy, FDNY spokesman Frank Dwyer said.

Department loses 1/5 of squad

It was the deadliest day for firefighters since the 9/11 attacks. And it is the deadliest wildland fire since 1933, according to a list from the U.S. National Wildfire Coordinating Group. Twenty-five firefighters died when a blaze burned in light chaparral near Griffith Park, California.

“Our entire crew was lost,” Prescott Fire Chief Dan Fraijo told reporters Sunday night. “We just lost 19 of some of the finest people you’ll ever meet. Right now, we’re in crisis.”

The tragedy killed about 20% of the Prescott Fire Department. Fraijo said one member of the team was not with the other crew members and survived.

Authorities have information that during the blaze, the firefighters deployed their fire shelters, a sort of aluminum blanket that protects against the flames and heat.

The shelters must be timed well. Set it up too soon, and the heat inside the shelter can become suffocating. Deploy it too late, and the fire is already on top of you.

Wearing gloves, a firefighter will lay on the ground under the shelter, the ground being the only thing keeping the firefighter cool. The shelter will block 100% of the heat from flames and hot gases and 95% of the radiant heat from the flames themselves.

Authorities believe lightning sparked the Yarnell Hill fire on Friday. By Sunday night, it had scorched more than 6,000 acres and destroyed more than 100 structures, Reichling said.

Billows of thick black smoke covered the sky as the giant flames leaped from one stretch of parched land to another.

The wildfire also forced evacuations in Peeples Valley and Yarnell, but no civilian injuries were reported.

Drivers fleeing the area were chased by dark plumes filling the air. Some evacuees paused to look from afar, wondering if the flames had torched their homes.

The blaze hadn’t touched Prescott yet. But like many other fire departments across the state, the Prescott team jumped in to help.

“A hotshot crew are the elite firefighters,” state forestry spokesman Art Morrison said. “They’re usually (a) 20-person crew, and they’re the ones who actually go in and dig the fire line, cut the brush to make a fuel break. And so they would be as close to the fire as they felt they safely could.”

“In normal circumstances, when you’re digging fire line, you make sure you have a good escape route, and you have a safety zone set up,” Morrison said. “Evidently, their safety zone wasn’t big enough, and the fire just overtook them.”

Fraijo, the fire chief, said he did not know the exact circumstances surrounding the firefighters’ deaths and wouldn’t speculate on a cause. But he said drought conditions, combined with winds that whipped unpredictably, have made battling the flames especially difficult.

‘They were heroes’

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano urged residents in the area to heed local authorities’ instructions, while lamenting the loss of so many firefighters.

“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,” she said in a written statement. “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.”

President Barack Obama also lauded the efforts of the fallen firefighters, saying their deaths are heartbreaking and “our thoughts and prayers go out” to their families. His administration stands ready to help in any way necessary, he said.

“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,” he said in an earlier statement.

Brewer, who will visit Prescott on Monday, said the loss marked “as dark a day as I can remember.” She has ordered state flags be flown at half-staff from sunrise Monday to sunset Wednesday, and issued an emergency declaration that will make $200,000 available for response and recovery, while authorizing mobilization of the National Guard, if necessary.

“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,” she said.

“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.”

Fraijo said the firefighters who died were exceptionally dedicated to their jobs.

“These are the guys that will go out there with 40, 50 pounds of equipment and walk five miles. They’ll sleep out there as they try to develop fire lines” to protect homes, Fraijo said.

Before the 19 deaths in Arizona, 43 firefighters had been killed so far in 2013, according to the U.S. Fire Administration. A total of 83 firefighters died last year while on duty.

A Facebook page in memory of the Arizona firefighters garnered more than 120,000 “likes” in less than 10 hours.

“Such a tragic loss,” one person wrote. “My heart aches for these brave souls, and for their families and friends.”
TM & © 2013 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.

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