Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer said early Monday morning that her state had experienced “as dark a day as I can remember,” following the deaths of 19 members of an elite firefighting crew in Yarnell, Ariz., which decimated nearly half of the town’s 500 homes.
“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.
“It may be days or longer before an investigation reveals how this tragedy occurred, but the essence we already know in our hearts: fighting fires is dangerous work. The risk is well-known to the brave men and women who don their gear and do battle against forest and flame.
“When a tragedy like this strikes, all we can do is offer our eternal gratitude to the fallen, and prayers for the families and friends left behind. God bless them all.”
The 19 deaths made up the deadliest wildfire involving firefighters in more than 30 years. The fast-moving wildfire was still raging Sunday night into Monday morning in Yarnell, a town of about 700 residents about 85 miles northwest of Phoenix.
The firefighters killed were part of an elite crew of “hotshot” firefighters, who build lines of protection between civilisation and wildfires by hiking into wilderness with chain saws and backpacks full of heavy gear.
In a statement, President Barack Obama called the 19 firefighters heroes.
“They were heroes — highly-skilled professionals who, like so many across our country do every day, selflessly put themselves in harm’s way to protect the lives and property of fellow citizens they would never meet,” Obama said.
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