PHOENIX -- A new report shows an Arizona wildfire that began with a lightning strike and caused little immediate concern because of its remote location and small size quickly grew into an inferno, leading officials to rapidly order more resources in the hours before the flames killed 19 members of an elite Hotshot crew.
The report from the Arizona State Forestry Division provides precise detail about the response to the fire that began June 28 outside the small town of Yarnell, including the unpredictable weather around the blaze and the exact times in which it escalated and key resources were deployed.
The report doesn't address the question of why the fire crew was still on the mountain above the town more than an hour after the winds shifted about 180 degrees and brought the fire back toward them. It also wasn't immediately clear whether the Hotshots were warned of the erratically changing weather before they were forced to take shelter and were killed.
The report describes how the fire worsened hour by hour – causing flames up to 20 feet high – as managers called in inmate and Hotshot firefighting crews and air support.
After the blaze was ignited about 60 miles northwest of Phoenix, an aerial unit assessed it. The unit found the fire to be "less than one acre, in a large boulder field," with little smoke and no structures at immediate risk.
Officials ordered two inmate crews, an engine and a helicopter to report to the scene early Saturday morning, June 29, to "work multiple lightning fires" in the area.
By the next day, the Yarnell Hill Fire was the only one still burning and had grown only slightly, to about 4 acres. Small, single-engine aircraft were used throughout the day as crews worked the ground.
By 5:30 p.m., the fire was only about 6 acres in size.
Air support was ordered but couldn't respond due to thunderstorms and high winds, according to the report. Later, a DC-10 capable of dropping large amounts of fire retardant to prevent the spread of flames was available but not ordered due to concerns about its effectiveness in the steep, boulder-strewn terrain and because darkness was setting in.
By 7:38 p.m., the blaze had grown to about 100 acres but was still "advancing slowly."
On Sunday at about 8 a.m., the 20-member Granite Mountain Hotshots team arrived and headed in to fight the fire, as small aircraft and helicopters worked the blaze from above. Heavy air tankers were ordered just after noon, but only one was able to respond, making multiple retardant drops on the fire.
According to the report, the fire had now increased in size to about 1,000 acres and was burning swiftly through an area that hadn't experienced a significant wildfire in nearly 50 years.
Two large air tankers were sent back to the Yarnell Hill Fire to try to stall its advance.
A few hours later, at 3:26 p.m., officials received word of heavy winds from a thunderstorm moving into the area as the fire grew.
Soon thereafter, the blaze was so out of control that officials asked for half of the available western U.S. heavy air tanker fleet – six planes. It was about 4 p.m.
Five of the planes weren't deployed because of the limited number of tankers in the nation's aerial firefighting fleet and the dangerous weather conditions at the time. Jim Paxon, a spokesman for the Arizona Division of Forestry, which was managing the fire, said one plane had been headed to the fire from California, but engine problems forced it to turn back.
Paxon noted that even if the planes had been available, winds were so strong they couldn't have been used to save the firefighters' lives.
"We could have had air tankers stacked up from here to the stratosphere and it wouldn't have made a difference," he said Monday. "The fire went through retardant lines like they were non-existent."
Within 45 minutes, at 4:47 p.m., the Hotshot crew radioed that they were trapped and deploying their emergency shelters. Less than two hours later, 19 of them were found dead. Only one crew member who was assigned as the lookout survived.
A national team of investigators is working to understand more about the firefighters' deaths and is expected to finish an initial report in about two months.
Paxon said the behavior of the fire and the enormous "blowup" when the winds shifted was highly unusual.
"It was just an extreme situation," he said.
The fire destroyed more than 100 homes before it was fully contained July 10.
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Andrew Ashcraft, 29
Andrew Ashcroft's wife said he always thought of others before himself, <a href="http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-505263_162-57591915/slain-hotshots-wife-remember-them-as-heroes/" target="_blank">reported CBS News</a>. Juliann Ashcroft told "CBS This Morning," "You know there are moments when I think of him and I smile because I love him so much and then I feel guilty for smiling, because I'm still in this shock."
Kevin Woyjeck, 21
This undated photo courtesy of the the Woyjeck family shows firefighter, Kevin Woyjeck, right, and his father, Los Angeles County Fire Capt. Joe Woyjeck. Kevin Woyjeck of Seal Beach, Calif., was one of the 19 Granite Mountain Hotshot Crew, who was killed Sunday evening above the town of Yarnell, northwest of Phoenix in the nation's biggest loss of firefighters in a wildfire in 80 years. (AP Photo/Woyjeck Family)
Anthony Rose, 23
Anthony Rose was remembered "as a jokester, but also as a kind and caring man who 'blossomed' at the Crown King Fire Department," according to NBC Chicago. <a href="http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/07/01/19238581-arizona-firefighters-young-dedicated-beloved" target="_blank">His fiancee, Tiffany Hettrick</a>, is expecting a child in October.
Eric Marsh, 43
This 2012 photo provided by Scott Marsh shows Eric Marsh, left, superintendent of the Granite Mountain Hotshots, during a visit with his cousin Scott Marsh in North Carolina. Eric was one of the 19 Granite Mountain Hotshot Crew, who was killed Sunday evening above the town of Yarnell, northwest of Phoenix, Ariz., in the nation's biggest loss of firefighters in a wildfire in 80 years.
Christopher MacKenzie, 30
Christopher MacKenzie, whose father was also a firefighter, grew up in California and was an avid snowboarder, <a href="http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/07/01/19238581-arizona-firefighters-young-dedicated-beloved" target="_blank">according to NBC News</a>. "I was very proud of him," his mom said. "He's gonna be so missed."
Robert Caldwell, 23
Robert Caldwell was born in the Philadelphia, Pa. area and moved out west with his family about 18 years ago, <a href="http://www.nbcphiladelphia.com/news/local/Elite-Firefighter-Killed-Fighting-Arizona-Wildfire-Born-in-BuxCo-Loved-Eagles-214033201.html" target="_blank">according to NBC10</a>. "We are extremely proud of him and we just want the rest of the world to know that," his father told the station. Caldwell was a "diehard" Philadelphia Eagles and Phillies fan.
Clayton Whitted, 28
Clayton Whitted's former high school coach, Lou Beneitone, said he was a "wonderful kid," <a href="http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2013/07/01/arizona-firefighters-mourned/2481207/" target="_blank">reported the Associated Press</a>. "He was a smart young man with a great personality, just a wonderful personality."
Scott Norris, 28
Scott Norris was "an exceptional man, wise beyond his years," a <a href="http://www.kpho.com/story/22736950/yarnell-hill-fire" target="_blank">coworker told KPHO</a>. "I never heard a dirty word out of the guy. He was the kind of guy who if he dated your daughter, you'd be OK with it," a <a href="https://www.azpm.org/p/top-news/2013/7/1/25190-19-brave-men-their-stories/" target="_blank">Prescott, Ariz. resident told AP</a>.
Dustin Deford, 24
In this June 2013 photo provided by the Prescott Fire Department via the Prescott Daily Courier, Dustin Deford, a member of the Prescott Fire Department Granite Mountain Hotshots, sharpens his chainsaw while working a fire near Prescott, Ariz. DeFord, 24, who grew up in Ekalaka, Mont., died Sunday, June 30, 2013 with 18 other firefighters when they were overtaken by an out-of-control blaze.
Sean Misner, 26
Sean Misner followed in the footsteps of his grandfather, who was a fire chief in California, <a href="http://whnt.com/2013/07/02/huntsville-man-remembers-friend-fallen-arizona-firefighter-sean-misner/" target="_blank">according to WHNT</a>. According to AP, Misner was a varsity football player and <a href="https://www.azpm.org/p/top-news/2013/7/1/25190-19-brave-men-their-stories/" target="_blank">participated in his high school's sports medicine program</a>. He is survived by his wife, who is seven months pregnant. Source: <a href="https://www.facebook.com/SeanMisnerMemorial" target="_blank">Sean Misner Memorial Facebook Page</a>
Garret Zuppiger, 27
Garret Zuppiger was a <a href="http://uanews.org/story/1985-2013-zuppiger-hotshot-firefighter-and-ua-alumnus" target="_blank">2008 graduate of the University of Arizona</a> and grew up in the Phoenix area, according to UA News. He was "extremely proud" of being a firefighter, a friend said according to the site. His friends said he had a passion for outdoor activities. Source: <a href="http://www.dcourier.com/" target="_blank">The Daily Courier</a>
Travis Carter, 31
Travis Carter was known as one of the strongest members of his hotshot crew, but also the most humble, <a href="https://www.azpm.org/p/top-news/2013/7/1/25190-19-brave-men-their-stories/" target="_blank">according to AP</a>. "No one could beat him," a trainer at a gym near his firehouse said. "But the thing about him, was he would never brag about it."
Grant McKee, 21
The <a href="http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/U/US_FIREFIGHTERS_KILLED_VIGNETTES?SITE=WVEC&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT" target="_blank">cousin of fellow hotshot Robert Caldwell, Grant</a> was "one of the most likable people you could ever meet," a relative told the Associated Press. "Everybody loved Grant." According to OC weekly, the 21-year old California native was <a href="http://blogs.ocweekly.com/navelgazing/2013/07/grant_mckee_granite_mountain_h.php" target="_blank">a member of the Prescott Disc Golf Club</a> and training to be an emergency medical technician. <a href="http://www.scpr.org/news/2013/07/02/38007/hotshots-killed-in-ariz-fire-remembered-mourned/" target="_blank">McKee grew up in Orange County, Calif.</a> and attended school in Newport Beach.
Travis Turbyfill, 27
Described by his family as funny and selfless in an obituary on AZCentral.com, <a href="http://www.azcentral.com/news/articles/20130702yarnell-fire-travis-turbyfill-obit.html" target="_blank">Travis was a Marine who served in the U.S. Forest Service </a>since 2005. He is survived by his wife, Stephanie, and their two daughters, Brynley and Brooklyn.
Jesse Steed, 36
According to a statement released by his brother Cassidy Steed, <a href="http://renton.patch.com/groups/giving/p/renton-police-officer-loses-brother-in-arizona-fire-starts-online-fund-to-support-families" target="_blank">Jesse was the most senior member of the hotshot firefighters</a>. He had two children with his wife, Desiree, and served in the Marine Corps from 1996 to 2000.
Wade Parker, 22
As a son of a firefighter, <a href="http://azstarnet.com/wade-parker/image_691a027e-e33e-11e2-9e13-0019bb2963f4.html" target="_blank">Wade Parker was pretty excited to be a part of the Hotshots</a>, Fire Department Capt. Jeff Knotek told the Arizona Daily Star. According to <a href="http://www.azcentral.com/news/arizona/articles/20130702yarnell-fire-wade-parker-obit.html" target="_blank">an obituary</a>, Wade was an avid baseball player and engaged to a high school classmate named Alicia Owens. Their wedding was planned for October.
Joe Thurston, 32
According to the Salt Lake Tribune, <a href="http://m.sltrib.com/sltrib/mobile3/56540846-219/thurston-goodrich-fire-joe.html.csp" target="_blank">Joe Thurston was a Utah native with a musical ear and natural athletic abilities</a>. He was married to his high school sweetheart, Marsena, for over a decade. In a statement released by his family, Joe was called "funny, hard working and extremely kind" and "could always be found at the baseball field or on the floor playing with his kids."
William Warneke, 25
Known to friends and family as "Bill," Warneke served for four years in the U.S. Marine Corps before joining the Prescott Fire Department in April. The late firefighter's grandmother, Nancy, told the Arizona Daily Star that <a href="http://azstarnet.com/william-warneke/image_eb99a8e4-e2c1-11e2-8646-0019bb2963f4.html" target="_blank">Roxanne, Bill's widow, is expecting a child</a> in December.
John Percin, 24
This undated photo provided by the family shows John Joseph Percin Jr. Percin, 24, was among the 19 Granite Mountain Hotshots firefighters who were killed Sunday, June 30, 2013 when a windblown wildfire overcame them north of Phoenix. (AP Photo)