America Burning: The Yarnell Hill Tragedy and the Nation’s Wildfire Crisis
The 2013 Yarnell Hill Fire is one of the most historic fire tragedies since September 11, 2001 when it comes to the loss of firefighters. This event sparked a realization among officials that wildfires are only getting bigger and stronger. The events of the Yarnell Fire occurred on June 30, 2013. The Granite Mountain Hotshot crew, local to Prescott, Arizona, were one of the main crews fighting the fire that day. They were following all tactics and procedures until the conditions suddenly changed and the fire started moving in their direction. The crew entered a canyon to reach their safe house and the fire rushed towards them at 12 miles per hour and the crew ended up in front of the fire. Tragically, 19 of the 20 crew members were lost. There were several incidents that went wrong, such as the crew moving out of a protected area, the fire moving so quickly, communications issues, etc. The tragedies of the Yarnell Hill fire bring into question an environmental issue: have forests become more dangerous from us fighting the wildfires?
Cow Fire: Proactive Fire Management in Action
The tactics and strategies of the 204 Cow Fire were proactive and allowed fire crews to manage the lightning-caused fire and help reduce the build-up of underbrush, restoring overall forest health. That specific area of forest had been dominated by beetle-killed trees where fire had not occurred for 30 years. Instead of a direct attack, crews surrounded the fire with containment features such as existing roads and construction lines. The fire lines built were strengthened by burn outs that eliminated fuel between the wildfire and the constructed lines. Officials working on this fire state that fire footprints, prescribed burns and other fuel-reducing techniques are the key to containing new large fires.
Cohesive Strategy Stakeholders Perspectives
No matter how much research is done, fire behavior will continue to be uncharacteristic in specific circumstances. Congress created the FLAME act to address these issues. This action led to the Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy, which focuses on a resilient landscape, fire adapted communities, and safe and effective wildfire response/operations. Fires cannot be avoided as it is a natural process. The end goal of this strategy is to reduce the impacts of wildfires on ecosystems and within communities through fire response and all-hands collaboration.