Yarnell Hill Fire investigation team releases first report

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By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman

PHOENIX -- The team investigating the deaths of 19 wildland firefighters killed while battling the Yarnell Hill Fire last weekend issued its 72-hour preliminary report Friday.

"The report indicates the 19 members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots were entrapped when flames overran their position in the late afternoon on Sunday, June 30, 2013," Carrie Templin, spokeswoman for the Bureau of Land Management, said in a news release. "Eye witnesses state that fire behavior was extreme with heavy winds."

The investigation team consists of specialist from state, local and federal agencies throughout the country.

"The team will conduct interviews, collect documentation and perform a site review," Templin said. "The data and information gathered can be used to help gain an understanding of events. The team will deliver a factual and management report to the Arizona State Forester once the report is compiled."

The process is not a speedy one. It could be months before the investigation issues its final report and conclusions.

"The intent of the investigation is to learn from the events leading up to this accident and to help prevent future occurrence," team leader Jim Karels wrote.

Information gleaned from the investigation will be added to the Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center.