The Yarnell Hill Fire
The Granite Mountain Hotshots responded to the Yarnell Hill Fire on June 30, 2013. While fighting the fire, the Granite Mountain Hotshots changed their position, the wind shifted, and 43 mph wind gusts started coming from the opposite direction. No other units that day knew exactly where the Granite Mountain Hotshots were. Sadly, 19 wildland firefighters lost their lives that day (Gilderman, Katz, & Efran, 2013). It was a tragedy for our community and is still remembered in countless ways in our town.
The National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy
The Yarnell Hill Fire can be examined under the National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy. Explained in a USFS 2018 video, cohesive strategy promotes, “1) Resilient Landscapes, 2) Fire adapted communities, and 3) Safe and effective wildfire response” (USFS, 2018). Cohesive strategy allows stakeholders to work together to treat the big picture of wildfire, including the community and the landscape.
Yarnell’s Landscape & Community
When examining the town and the area surrounding Yarnell, I would not classify the landscape as resilient due to prolonged periods of fire suppression and a lack of species composition and diversity. However, I would classify them as a “fire adapted community” due to the firewise properties as the norm and the involvement of the Prescott Area Wildland-Urban Interface Commission. It has been promoting community education and outreach in the greater Prescott-area communities, including Yarnell, for the past 30 years. This organization is a great example of cohesive wildland fire management strategy in action because it allows for all stakeholders to work together to build more resilient landscapes and communities (PAWUIC, 2020).
Safe and Effective Wildfire Response
Regarding safe and effective wildfire response, Senator Cantwell’s (2019) Wildfire Management Technology Advancement Act came to mind, which requires all firefighters by the 2021 fire season to have GPS locators. If this policy was the industry standard in 2013, the IC could have located and saved these 19 lives. Another technique that Prescott NF could utilize moving forward stems from the 204 Cow Fire. In a video by the USFS (2019), “The 204 Cow Fire achieved multiple objectives, including 1)improving forest health and 2) creating spaces where firefighters have better options to control future fires.” If Prescott-area forests had more treated areas and designated safe areas for firefighters “to control future fires,” perhaps we could better manage our forests, as well as firefighter safety, and prevent future incidents such as the devastating Yarnell Hill Fire.
Cantwell, M. (2019). Firefighters One Step Closer to New Technology to Stop Wildfires, Stay Safe. Retrieved from https://www.cantwell.senate.gov/news/press-releases/-firefighters-one-step-closer-to-new-technology-to-stop-wildfires-stay-safe
Gilderman, G, Katz, N, & Efran, S. (2013). America Burning: The Yarnell Hill tragedy and the nation’s wildfire crisis [Video]. The Weather Channel. Youtube. https://youtu.be/begTiksUwqc
Prescott Area Wildland Urban Interface Commission (PAWUIC). (2020). Yavapai Firewise. Retrieved from https://yavapaifirewise.org/
U.S. Forest Service (USFS). (2019). Playing with fire [Video]. Youtube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A6QfMdKCkzE
U.S. Forest Service (USFS). (2018). Cohesive strategies stakeholders perspectives [Video]. Youtube. https://youtu.be/Xy06f0YZPt8