Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Wildfire Expert Alleges Arizona Forestry Division Covering Up Yarnell Hill Tragedy

A long-anticipated field presentation scheduled today by the Arizona Forestry Division for the families of 19 incinerated Granite Mountain Hotshots – during which relatives are to be taken to the site where their loved ones perished — has been sharply criticized for failing to accurately portray what happened. During the site visit, participants are to be taken to different locations on the fire site, and wildfire experts are to provide presentations of what they say is the best-available information about the events that led up to the deaths of the Granite Mountain Hotshots on June 30, 2013, at Yarnell Hill. A "facilitator guide" book also has been prepared that provides detailed information about key events on on the day of the fire and those that preceded it. The tour and presentation are touted by the state as a way to provide the families facts about the fire and offer an opportunity for a healing experience. But one of the nation's leading wildfire fatality experts, who has participated in such events in the past, sharply criticizes the information to be presented as constituting an inaccurate and misleading portrayal of the events. "I think the staff ride is an insult to all of [the Hotshots'] loved ones because it [doesn't tell] the truth," says Ted Putnam, a retired wildfire fatality investigator and Chino Valley resident who has conducted an unofficial investigation into the Yarnell Hill Fire. "The biggest tribute we should do for these firefighters is to tell the truth." Putnam was provided a copy of the facilitator guide to be used during the staff ride by New Times, which obtained it from the state Forestry Division through an Arizona Public Records Law request. Putnam contends he has direct information from multiple firefighter sources who were at the fire in conjunction with evidence contained in investigation reports that leave no doubt that the state Forestry Division ordered the Granite Mountain Hotshots to come off the mountain and go to Yarnell...more

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