Ariz. agency presents findings in Hotshots' deaths

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by The Associated Press

Video report by Jill Galus

Posted on December 4, 2013 at 6:57 AM

Updated Tuesday, Dec 10 at 1:14 PM

Click here to view the report from the Arizona Division of Occupational Safety and Health

PHOENIX (AP) -- An Arizona agency tasked with investigating workplace violations related to the deaths of 19 firefighters will present its findings Wednesday, along with recommendations for financial penalties and citations against the state Forestry Division.

The state Industrial Commission will hear proposals from the Arizona Division of Occupational Safety and Health at its meeting in Phoenix. The Arizona State Forestry Division, which oversaw the Yarnell Hill Fire that trapped the men on state land, is the only entity listed under the agenda item.

Spokeswomen for ADOSH declined to discuss specifics ahead of the meeting, and a state Forestry Division spokeswoman said the office could not comment because it had not seen the proposals.

The commissioners have final say on any action. They could decide to accept the proposals as presented, ask for more information or make changes to the proposals, said Abbie Fink, a spokeswoman for ADOSH.

"That's sort of the unknown, what the vote and outcome will be," she said.

The review by ADOSH occurred simultaneously but separately from a three-month investigation by national experts into the circumstances surrounding the June 30 deaths of the Granite Mountain Hotshots. That report found lapses in communication from the crew in the hour before the men died. It also found proper procedure was followed but did not say whether the tragedy was avoidable.

The 19 members of the crew employed by the city of Prescott had been in a relatively safe position on a ridge top. For some unknown reason and without notifying anyone, the crew moved down the mountainside through an unburned area. The men found themselves trapped by a wall of flames in a brush-choked bowl when winds shifted the fire in their direction.

They deployed their emergency shelters but perished in the scorching heat. Only one member of the crew who was serving as the lookout survived.

The fire destroyed more than 100 homes and burned 13 square miles before it was fully contained on July 10.

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