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Published On: Mon, Jul 1st, 2013

19 firefighters killed in ‘perfect storm’ Arizona fire, only one survived from fire crew

Nineteen firefighters were killed while battling a central Arizona wildfire that was sparked by lightning Friday and grew quickly Sunday.

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer confirmed Sunday night that the 19 had perished outside Prescott, Arizona.

They were a fire crew, highly specialized wildfire teams that work under especially brutal conditions.

Wild fire are consuming Arizona and sadly 19 firefighters have lost their lives. photo 2012 Poco Wildfire in Tonto National Forest   US Dept of Ag

Wild fire are consuming Arizona and sadly 19 firefighters have lost their lives. photo 2012 Poco Wildfire in Tonto National Forest US Dept of Ag

“This is as dark a day as I can remember, with Arizona suffering the truly unimaginable loss of 19 wildland firefighters,” Brewer said in a statement late Sunday. She said “the fast-moving blaze overtook their position.”

“It may be days or longer before an investigation reveals how this tragedy occurred.”

Mandatory evacuations were in place for 450 residents in the communities of Yarnell and Peeples Valley, about 85 miles northwest of Phoenix, as high temperatures, low humidity and unpredictable winds made for “extremely bad conditions,” according to local officials.

“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,” Prescott Fire Department spokesman Wade Ward told ABC’s “Today” program.

The blaze is raging unchecked after burning about 8,400 acres of tinder-dry chaparral and grasslands. It was sparked by lightning on Friday, Arizona state fire officials said in a statement.

Prescott Fire Chief Dan Fraijo said late on Sunday one member of the 20-man crew had been in a separate location and survived. There was no immediate information on his condition.

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About the Author

- Catherine "Kaye" Wonderhouse, a proud descendant of the Wunderhaus family is the Colorado Correspondent who will add more coverage, interviews and reports from this midwest area.

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