Recordings capture final desperate moments of Arizona firefighters

Newly released video and audio provides a fuller picture of the fight against a catastrophic wild fire in Arizona last summer. Nineteen hotshot firefighters were killed, and several families have filed multi-million dollar lawsuits.

Video from a firefigher's helmet cam shows the Yarnell fire bearing down and captures the desperate radio calls from the Granite Mountain Hotshots as a 100-foot wall of flames closed in on them.

"Breaking in on Arizona 16, Granite Mountain Hotshots, we are in front of the flaming front," can be heard on one recording.

 

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The Granite Mountain Hotshots
CBS News
 

The recordings were released after an investigation revealed commanders made numerous mistakes managing the wildfire that killed the 19 hotshots and destroyed more than 100 homes.

"Little by little the truth is coming out," said Juliann Ashcraft, whose husband, Andrew, was one of those who died. She saw the video for the first time yesterday.

Their leader, Eric Marsh, made one of the final calls for help.

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Juliann Ashcraft, whose husband, Andrew, died
CBS News
 "Our escape route has been cut off," he said. "We are preparing a deployment site and we are burning out around ourselves in the brush and I'll give you a call when we are under the -- the shelters."

"In his voice, what I heard was he knew, I think and I believe that he knew they were all going to die," Ashcraft said.

Moments before the hotshots deployed their fire shelters, they called for water-dropping aircraft: "Air Attack, Granite Mountain 7!"

But fire commanders did not even know where the hotshots were.

"So you're on the south side of the fire then? We've got several aircraft coming to you. We'll see if we can't take care of business for you."

"It shows confusion and that's heartbreaking," said Ashcraft's mother, Deborah Pfingston.

 

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The fire killed 19 of the Granite Mountain Hotshots
CBS News
 

But to Pfingston, the recordings also provide some comfort.

"These guys were working to save each other to the very last moment, and that is commendable," she said.

At 4:38 p.m., there was a call from dispatch.

"Division Alpha, Bravo 33. Do you hear a helicopter?"

 But there was no reply.

  • Carter Evans

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