Yarnell - At least 19 firefighters were killed battling a
wildfire in Arizona, a spokesperson with the Yavapai County Sheriff's office
said late on Sunday.
They died sometime late on Sunday afternoon while fighting
to contain the Yarnell Hill wildfire north of Phoenix, spokesperson Steve
Skurga told AFP, without giving further details.
He was unable to confirm whether the dead were the same 19
firefighters reported to be missing earlier Sunday by the Arizona State
Arizona Senator Jeff Blake posted on his twitter feed:
"I am sick with the news. Prayers go out to all affected."
A state forestry official told CNN the firefighters were
from a local "hotshot" crew who had been digging a fire line to
contain the blaze.
"In normal circumstances, when you're digging fire
line, you make sure you have a good escape route, and you have a safety zone
set up," Art Morrison said.
"Evidently, their safety zone wasn't big enough, and
the fire just overtook them."
A Facebook page was created in memory of the fallen
firefighters, and showed a picture of the Granite Mountain Hotshots crew from
Prescott, Arizona, with 19 men in the photo.
The fire broke out Friday and, according to the forestry
officials, has covered 800-1 000 acres (400 hectares).
Residents of Yarnell and Peeples Valley were being
evacuated, officials said on a fire alert website.
Local news site the Arizona Republic reported the fire was
fast moving and that by Sunday night had not been contained.
Federal help was expected starting on Monday, it reported,
but officials expected that least 250 homes - about half of the town of Yarnell
- would be destroyed by the inferno.
AP reported that the fire was the deadliest involving
firefighters in the country for at least 30 years. The previous deadliest
wildland fire involving firefighters was in 1994 when 14 firefighters were