Arizona fire map 2013, UPDATE: Names of 19 firefighters fallen in Yarnell Hill fire released, blaze devours 8,000 acres
Names of the 19 firefighters who passed away in the deadly Arizona wildfire on Sunday have been released.
All but one of the 20-member Granite Mountain Hotshots have fallen from the raging blaze.
The bodies of the elite crew who tried to save their own lives by making emergency shelters to take cover as a last resort have been retrieved. The sole surviving member lived because he had been moving the unit's truck at the time.
The names of the fallen firefighters from the town of Prescott are as follows:
Andrew Ashcraft, 29Kevin Woyjeck, 21Anthony Rose, 23Eric Marsh, 43Christopher MacKenzie, 30Robert Caldwell, 23Clayton Whitted , 28Scott Norris, 28Dustin Deford, 24Sean Misner, 26Garret Zuppiger, 27Travis Carter, 31Grant McKee, 21Travis Turbyfill, 27Jesse Steed, 36Wade Parker, 22Joe Thurston, 32William Warneke, 25John Percin, 24
Flags were flown at half-staff in honor of the fallen soldiers, with Arizona's governor calling it "as dark a day as I can remember."
President Barack Obama who is currently on a tour in South Africa, said he was heartbroken about what happened and called the firefighters "heroes."
The deaths of the firefighters Sunday is the single deadliest incident for firefighters since the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.
It is not known how the firefighters became overwhelmed by the fire, but the erratic weather and nature of the fire is to blame.
'Hot shot' firefighters are elite firefighters that are highly trained to hike for miles into the wilderness with chain saws and backpacks filled with heavy gear to build lines of protection between the blaze and people by clearing away brushes, trees, and more.
Prescott Fire Chief San Fraijo spoke at a news conference Sunday: "We grieve for the family. We grieve for the department. We grieve for the city. We're devastated. We just lost 19 of the finest people you'll ever meet."
He continued: "By the time they got there, it was moving very quickly." He explained the emergency shelters that the crew was forced to deploy. "One of the last fail safe methods that a firefighter can do under those conditions is literally to dig as much as they can down and cover themselves with a protective - kinda looks like a foil type - fire-resistant material - with the desire, the hope at least, is that the fire will burn over the top of them and they can survive it. Under certain conditions there's usually only sometimes a 50 per cent chance that they survive. It's an extreme measure that's taken under the absolute worst conditions."
Prescott Fire Department spokesman Wade Ward told the Today Show: "It had to be a perfect storm in order for this to happen. Their situational awareness and their training was at such a high level that it's unimaginable that this has even happened."
Our entire crew was lost," Fraijo said. "We just lost 19 of some of the finest people you'll ever meet. Right now, we're in crisis."
The devastating fire continues to blaze and has already devoured 8,400 acres in Yarnell Hill, a small town of only 500 structures. Over half of the town's structures have burned down.
The fire started Friday after lightning struck the area. started on Friday after lightning struck the area. The fire spread rapidly due to temperatures soaring over 100 degrees in the area, low humidity and windy .
Pope Francis used his Christmas blessing to call for an end to fighting in Syria and the Holy Land.
Pope Francis said on Saturday that Christmas had been "taken hostage" by dazzling materialism that puts God in the shadows and blinds many to the needs of the hungry, the migrants and the war weary.
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