Wednesday 20 November 2019

Sole survivor of US wildfire was moving engine

Christine and Casen (3) Beyea at the memorial for the firefighters in Prescott, Arizona
Christine and Casen (3) Beyea at the memorial for the firefighters in Prescott, Arizona

Nick Allen Prescott, Arizona

The sole survivor of an elite firefighting unit wiped out by a massive wildfire escaped, it has emerged, because he was moving the team's fire engine at the time.

The survivor, who has yet to be publicly identified, is now said to be struggling to cope with the deaths in the vast Yarnell Hill fire of his 19 friends from the Granite Mountain Hotshots crew.

According to Dan Fraijo, the fire chief in Prescott, Arizona, the surviving fireman is "well", but "feels terribly, and we all feel terribly, and we have very few words that express that sort of sorrow".

The first details were released yesterday of the 19 men who lost their lives as they battled the fire, 80 miles northwest of Phoenix.

Fourteen of the Hotshots were in their 20s, and the deceased included at least three expectant fathers. Their undoing was a dramatic wind change, which split the fire and trapped them between two walls of flame.

Before his death, Andrew Ashcraft (29), a Mormon father of four, had texted pictures of the blaze to his wife Juliann, telling her it was "wild".

A distraught Mrs Ashcraft said: "They died together doing what they loved."

The youngest victim was Kevin Woyjeck (21), who telephoned his father Joe as he headed to the blaze. Joe Woyjeck, also a firefighter, said his son grew up "looking forward to becoming a firefighter like his Dad".

An investigation into the tragedy is under way, and among the questions being asked is whether an "incident meteorologist", someone who studies the effect of weather on wildfires, should have been deployed to the scene. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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