SANTA YNEZ, Calif. - Gusty, hot winds blew an Arizona blaze out of control in a forest northwest of Phoenix, overtaking and killing 19 members of an elite fire crew.
This is one of the deadliest wildfires involving firefighters in the United States for at least 30 years. One of the heroes killed Sunday is from the Santa Ynez Valley. Sean Misner attended Santa Ynez High School. He leaves behind his pregnant wife, Amanda.
The elite "hotshot" firefighters were forced to deploy their emergency fire shelters -tent- like structures meant to shield firefighters from flames and heat - when they were caught near the central Arizona town of Yarnell, state forestry spokesman Art Morrison told The Associated Press.
The fire also destroyed an estimated 200 homes, Morrison said. Dry grass near the communities of Yarnell and Glen Isla fed the fast-moving blaze, which was whipped up by wind and raced through the homes, he said.
The fire still burned late Sunday, with flames lighting up the night sky in the forest above Yarnell, a town of about 700 residents about 85 miles northwest of Phoenix.
Most people had evacuated from the town, and no injuries or other deaths were reported.
The fire started after a lightning strike on Friday and spread to at least 2,000 acres on Sunday amid triple-digit temperatures, low humidity and windy conditions.
Prescott Fire Chief Dan Fraijo said that the 19 dead firefighters were a part of the city's fire department.
"We grieve for the family. We grieve for the department. We grieve for the city," he said at a news conference Sunday evening. "We're devastated. We just lost 19 of the finest people you'll ever meet."
NewsChannel 3 Reporter Shirin Rajaee spoke with Misner's family and friends. Watch for a full report tonight on NewsChannel 3 at 5, 6 and 11 p.m.
The Montecito Firefighter's Charitable Foundation (a non-profit organization) is establishing a fund to assist the families of the Granite Mountain Interagency Hot Shots.
To make a donation to help the family, here is a linked email address for PayPal:
Or go to Sean's Memorial Facebook page:
You can also make a donation to: "Montecito Firefighter's Charitable Foundation"
The Tax I.D. number is: 204817396
In the "memo" please reference "Nineteen Lost"
Submit donations by mail to:
Montecito Firefighter's Charitable Foundation, PO Box 5881, Montecito, CA 93150
Submit donations in person to:
Montecito Fire Station 1: 595 San Ysidro Rd. in Montecito.Slideshow: Local firefighter Sean Misner among the fallen heroes in Arizona