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Tue, June 25

Editorial: Hotshots' fatal move was a courageous one

In the end, the Granite Mountain Hotshots were firefighters, pure and simple.

The long-awaited official Arizona State Forestry Department investigation into the tragic deaths of 19 Hotshots was released on Saturday, and with it came affirmation of their unique commitment to cause, and a new feeling of loss for those left behind to mourn.

The report into the June 30 accident flatly concludes that there was "no indication of negligence, reckless actions or violations of protocol." It further summated that the Hotshots and their fellow responders that fateful day on Yarnell Hill were well trained and were followers of standards and guidelines.

The report did also provide insight into what went horribly wrong.

Severe and changeable wind and weather conditions, spotty communication, and a rapid increase of the fire's complexity amounted to a combination of adverse conditions that no one either could have predicted nor prevented. The investigation team believes the Hotshots were trying to reposition themselves so they could reengage the spreading fire.

Let's re-state that last line. The Hotshots were trying to reposition themselves so they could reengage the spreading fire.

That is what the Granite Mountain Hotshots crew was all about, as are other Hotshot crews and fire responders across the country.

If a fire is blazing, if structures and towns are threatened, if anyone is in harm's way, firefighters engage.

That is what we as a community love about them, and yet what hurts the most when we lose them so tragically.

We got even more insight this weekend into the crew with a look at previously unreleased final photos and even a short video taken by one of the Hotshots, Christopher MacKenzie, just shortly before the crew perished. These images reveal the scope and magnitude of their brave fight. They also show the crew members working as one - even in what was their final hour - for that next opportunity to gain an upper hand in their duty to protect.

Before Saturday's release of the report, we felt in some ways that we may never know exactly what happened on that hill just before 5 p.m. on Sunday, June 30.

In the end, the report told us what we knew all along.

They were honorably fighting to protect us through training, expertise and teamwork.

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