Favorable weather conditions, including overnight rain and slower winds, helped firefighters contain 45 percent of the fire that continued to blaze in Yarnell on Wednesday night, about 80 miles north of Phoenix, reports said. The fire had only been contained 8 percent on Tuesday.
A memorial service for 19 fallen firefighters, an elite group of wildland firefighters, who died battling the blaze Sunday, will be held next Tuesday in Prescott Valley, ABC15 reported, adding that a 100-mile long procession from Phoenix to Prescott Valley, carrying the hearses of the 19 firefighters, will take place on Sunday morning.
The Yarnell Hill fire, which so far has consumed about 8,400 acres and about 129 homes since it started on Friday, claimed the lives of 19 firefighters on Sunday belonging to the Granite Mountain Hotshots, an elite group of 20 firefighters out of Prescott, Ariz.
An eight-person team of federal investigators arrived in Yarnell, late Tuesday, to investigate what caused their deaths, and a preliminary report is expected within two months. Their investigations will be based on the weather conditions and the fire department’s radio logs. They will also talk to the sole surviving member of the Granite Mountain Hotshots.
“Our goal is to look at what happened and see how to prevent it on other fires," Jim Karels, director of the Florida Forest Service, who is leading the team of investigators, told the Los Angeles Times on Wednesday.
Arizona State Forester Scott Hunt echoed a similar sentiment, and said in a statement quoted by NBC News, that it was important to understand the cause of the tragedy to prevent future ones.
“We are confident that the investigative team will find lessons to be learned from this tragedy,” Hunt said. “We have a responsibility to those lost and their loved ones, as well as to current and future wildland firefighters, to understand what happened as completely as possible.”
Keerthi Mohan is an IBTimes reporter covering entertainment and human interest stories.