December 16th, 2013
08:45 AM ET

Arizona Wildfire Engulfs 19 Firefighters, Audio Captures Final Moments

Tragedy struck Yarnell Hill, Arizona, last June when a massive wildfire took the lives 19 elite firefighters known as the Granite Mountain Hotshots.

An unidentified firefighter’s helmet camera caught and depict the final moments before fire swept through, and left them with no way to escape, CNN’s George Howell reports.

Hotshots are heard saying, "Breaking in on Arizona 16. Granite Mountain Hotshots. We are in front of the flaming front."

“The crew descended down a ridge, and found themselves cut off by fire,” Howell says.

The newly released radio transmissions reveal there were communication issues between the hotshot team and the command center.

“The hotshot team continues to call for air support – an air tanker, to drop fire retardant on their location, but it never comes together.”

With the Hotshots, Division Alpha is heard saying, "Yeah, I'm here with Granite Mountain Hotshots. Our escape route has been cut off. We are preparing a deployment site and we are burning out around ourselves in the brush and I'll give you a call when we are under the shelters."

“In the final few minutes of the audio, the command center informs the hotshots that an aircraft is on the way, but it ends with command trying, unsuccessfully, to reach the hotshots on the radio. The worst firefighting tragedy since September 11th.”


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