Arizona Forestry posts Yarnell firefighter videos
PHOENIX - The Arizona State Forestry Division has posted numerous video clips on its website that were recorded by other firefighters the day the Granite Mountain Hotshots were overtaken and killed while battling the Yarnell Hill Fire in 2013.
The Arizona Republic reported Sunday (http://bit.ly/1qxQ4sA) that the clips offered little new insight on the last moments of the hotshot crew, and the forestry division did not respond to the newspaper's multiple requests to speak about the footage.
According to the post Saturday on the forestry division's website, the clips were obtained from the U.S. Forest Service through a Freedom of Information Act request. Some footage, including that which showed the bodies of the Granite Mountain crew, was redacted by the Forest Service.
Roxanne Warneke, whose husband, Billy Warneke, was one of the 19 men killed, watched the videos in her Marana home. For her, there still are questions.
In one clip, a man says, "I don't have anybody else that I feel comfortable sending that way." Warneke said that sounds as if someone had specifically sent the Granite Mountain crew into the area where they were trapped and killed.
"We'll never understand. We will always ask why," says Tammy Misner of Santa Ynez, California, whose son, Sean Misner, was a Granite Mountain hotshot.
Misner heard the bewilderment, the fear and then sadness in the men's voices as she watched the videos, which include images recorded before the hotshots were overcome and after their bodies were found.
"It was just disturbing to look at and watch, but at the same time I don't think I heard anything that would make any changes to what we already feel we know happened," Misner said.
"You're watching this, and you know what's going on. Our guys are gone."
Attorney Patrick McGroder, who represents families of the fallen hotshots in wrongful-death and benefit legal cases, had not seen the footage. He criticized the forestry division's handling of the release, saying officials were insensitive and lacked decency.
A few weeks ago, families of the Granite Mountain Hotshots had been warned by J.P. Vicente, a Prescott fire captain, that the videos might be released. Families had asked that no footage of the bodies of their loved ones or photographs be made public.
The clips range from 30 seconds to more than seven minutes. They include one previously released clip that showed firefighters listening to radio traffic between the Granite Mountain crew and command staff. The crew seemed puzzled about what was going on. One said he thought the crew was in a safety zone.
That clip contained the voice of Eric Marsh, the superintendent of the Granite Mountain crew, saying the hotshots were preparing a deployment site. The clip ended with command staffers trying repeatedly to reach the crew by radio. The calls go unanswered.
Other videos show firefighters planning their attempt to rescue the Granite Mountain crew and making their way to the area.
Once the bodies are found, the emotion heard in the clips is apparent. At one point, a voice utters a profanity and confirms that the bodies of the crew have been found.
To view additional video footage, go to azsf.az.gov/new-video-clips.