July 3, 2013 4:22 AM
Arizona Hotshots truly lived the meaning of the word. They were fathers and expectant fathers. High school football players and former Marines. Smoke-eaters' sons and first-generation firefighters. Nineteen members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots, based in Prescott, Arizona, were killed when a windblown wildfire overcame them north of Phoenix. It was the deadliest single day for U.S. firefighters since 9/11. Fourteen of the victims were in their 20s. Fire crews battling a wildfire should identify escape routes and safe zones. They should pay close attention to the weather forecast. And they should post lookouts. In the nation's biggest loss of firefighters since 9/11, violent wind gusts turned what was believed to be a relatively manageable lightning-ignited forest fire in the town of Yarnell into a death trap that left no escape for a team of Hotshots.The tragedy raised questions of whether the crew should have been pulled out much earlier and whether all the usual precautions would have made any difference at all in the face of triple-digit temperatures, erratic winds and tinderbox conditions that caused the fire to explode.