Arizona Agency Is Faulted in Deaths of 19 Firefighters

Yarnell Crew

From the New York Times:

PHOENIX — A state safety commission recommended fines totaling $559,000 against the Arizona State Forestry Division on Wednesday, saying the agency wrongly put the protection of “structures and pastureland” ahead of the safety of firefighters battling a wildfire in central Arizona last summer, including 19 who died trapped by the flames at the base of a mountain.

A commission report said the forestry division had kept the firefighters on the mountains even after commanders realized that they could not control the flames burning through the parched, thick chaparral along the western edge of the old gold-mining village of Yarnell, 80 miles northwest of Phoenix.

In the report, inspectors for the Arizona Division of Occupational Safety and Health said the agency’s actions resulted in “multiple instances of firefighters being unnecessarily and unreasonably exposed to the deadly hazards of wildland firefighting.”

The inspectors wrote that the agency did not protect the firefighters from “recognized hazards that were causing or likely to cause death or serious physical harm.”

The investigators recommended that the forestry division pay a penalty of $70,000, and $25,000 per firefighter who died, to be paid directly to their families or estates, a total of $545,000. Penalties of $14,000 were recommended for other safety infractions.

Read more at the New York Times.