Wildfire cut off Hotshots' access to safety zone
PRESCOTT, Ariz. - An erratic wildfire curled around the location of a team of Arizona Hotshot firefighters, cutting off their access to a nearby safety zone and creating a death trap.
A spokesman for the crews battling the Yarnell Hill fire and another official with the Prescott Fire Department confirmed that scenario Friday based on a map of the tragedy compiled by The Associated Press.
The safety zone that the Hotshots were supposed to flee to if the fire got out of control was a ranch property just over a quarter of a mile away.
The team was northwest of the ranch using chain saws, axes and other gear to build a line between the fire and the small town of Yarnell.
The fire was northeast of the 19 Hotshots but suddenly changed directions and cut off access to the safety zone. All 19 died in the fire.
The team's 20th member was serving as a lookout and survived. His location during the fire is unclear.