Slowly, we are finding out more how these men died. Most of them had deployed their fire shelters, and died either of breathing superheated air, or from being burned alive.
No one can fully imagine what that must have been like.
I was working on the Santa Rita Suppression crew at Florida Work Center in 1977 when carrying fire shelters became mandatory. No one, including me, had faith in this addition to our gear. We believed that the time spent preparing the ground and deploying the shelter should be spent running... however, we all knew you can't outrun a raging, wind driven inferno.
It is also interesting to see articles about the difference between forest firefighters and structural firefighters. Throughout my career, I'd met a number of fire personal that specialized in structure fires. They were fascinated by my line of work, but had no desire to fight wildfires. I felt the same way about their jobs. I had no problem marching into a burning forest, but wouldn't be caught dead anywhere near a burning building.
The Granite Mountain 19 died defending homes in the fire's path. Should they have been there? Probably not. Wildland fire crews do not receive the same training as structural firefighters do, and do not have special breathing aparatus and other gear. Officials also blame a severe weather change. This should not have been a surprise to the crew, trained to anticipate weather and wind changes. Even though they had the required lookout, the only survivor, they should have also planned several other escape routes
The investigation will go on, but that won't change what happened that day. Hopefully this won't happen again.