10:11 a.m. – Aerial surveillance reports limited flame activity.
12:22 p.m. – Aerial surveillance reports the fire’s size as 2 acres.
4:00 p.m. – Winds increase from the west-southwest increasing the fire’s size.
4:15 p.m. – Fire grows to three to four acres.
5:15 p.m. – Fire jumps the two-track road on the east flank and grows to 6 acres. At this point, the fire has slopped over the containment line.
The fire continues to grow in intensity and size. It grows to 100 acres.
7:24 p.m. – The fire spreads actively into chaparral to the north-northeast.
Weather stations report the temperature at 101 degrees.
Humidity stands at 12 percent.
Winds are 10 miles per hour gusting to 20 miles per hour out of the south-southeast.
The fire is spreading from 100 to 200 yards per hour.
9:38 p.m. – Flames grow to 20 – 30 feet.
Size: 100+ acres
June 30, 2013
Estimated fire perimeter (418 acres) at 1000 hours on June 30
6:29 a.m. – Fire’s estimated size: 600 acres.
9:45 a.m. – Weather report predicts isolated thundershowers for the evening with lightening, strong winds and no rain over the fire.
10:45 a.m. – Aerial surveillance reports fire’s size increases to 800 to 1,000 acres.
The front spread out for about a mile and a half with at times fouty-to-fifty foot flames.
Veterans of many fires had never seen a fire burning as if it were the middle of a hot day so early in the morning.
The fire was moving at 1/8th of a mile per hour to the northeast – towards Peeple’s Valley.
12:27 p.m. – Fire flames rise to 15 – 20 feet high.
Reports say the fire is moving N – NE at a half-mile per hour. Estimates are the fire is one hour outside of Peeples Valley.
In two hours, the fire grows an additional 700 acres.
2:02 p.m. – National Weather Service issues the day’s first weather alert, forecasting thunderstorm activity on fire’s east side.
3:26 p.m. – National Weather Service issues a second alert for thunderstorm-driven winds approaching the fire from the Northeast. Alert says winds could blow at 40-50 miles per hour.
3:30 – 3:45 p.m. – Wind direction shifts by 180 degrees. Winds now blow from the West to the Northwest.
Ash begins to fall on crews near the Shrine of St. Joseph.
Two-mile wall of flames marches southeast.
4:24 p.m. – Image on Doppler radar shows fire plume at 31,500 feet.
4:30 p.m. – Thunder storm-driven winds reach the northern edge of the fire and pushes it south.
Flames double their size and triple their speed.
July 1, 2013
Fire grows to 8,300 acres prompting the evacuation of Peeple’s Valley.
July 2, 2013
The fire is at 8 percent containment, but had not increased in size for 24 hours.
July 3, 2013
The fire was at 45 percent containment.
July 4, 2013
The residents of Peeple’s Valley return to their homes. Yavapai Sheriff reports two buildings burned in the Valley.
July 8, 2013
The residents of Yarnell return home to find some houses survived, others did not. Yarnell lost 127 buildings, according to the Yavapai Sheriff.
July 10, 2013
The Yarnell Hill Fire is declared 100 percent contained.
- Timeline sources: Yarnell Hill Fire Serious Accident Investigation, The Fire Line by Fernanda Santos and On The Burning Edge by Kyle Dickman
TIMELINE OF GRANITE MOUNTAIN'S TIME ON THE YARNELL FIRE
June 28, 2013
5:40 p.m. Yarnell Hill Fire starts due to dry lightening strike
June 29, 2013
9:01 p.m. – Granite Mountain Hot Shots assigned to fight the fire. Requested to show up on June 30.
June 30, 2013
7:00 a.m. (approximately) – Granite Mountain attends a fire briefing meeting at Yarnell Fire Station. They learn that the Helm’s Boulder Springs Ranch is a bombproof safety zone because the buildings have metal roof and siding and brush has been cleared around property.
8:59 a.m. – Granite Mountain starts hiking up the hill to where they will work to create an anchor point.
This point will keep the fire from doubling back on them.
9:18 a.m. – A hiker takes a photo of Granite Mountain passing by her and a friend.
11:36 a.m. – A tanker drops retardant on a back fire Granite Mountain had created to help establish an anchor point on the mountain at the back end of the Yarnell Fire.
12:10 p.m. – A new supervisor for Division Zulu, who oversees the Blue Ridge Hotshots, arrives where both Granite Mountain and Blue Ridge buggies are parked.
He and Marsh confer, but cannot agree on the “break location or associated supervisory responsibilities,” according to the Serious Accident Investigation Report.
This results “in uncertainty among some personnel about the physical break between Division Alpha and Zulu,” reads the report. Basically, Blue Ridge did not know who their division head was, Marsh kept control of Granite Mountain, the dozer remained in the hands of the structural firefighter Cordes, and Division Zulu was not heard from for the rest of the day.
Troubles with the radio forced the two commanders to speak over the Blue Ridge Hotshot’s crew radio on an intra-crew frequency. This conversation is not heard by Incident Command.
12:37 p.m. – Brandon McDonough is dropped off at a lookout spot about a mile northeast of Granite Mountain. His job is to watch for spot fires below his crew.
Granite Mountain takes lunch, then starts working again. The crew remains in the view of McDonough – Marsh on an outcrop and Steed near the anchor point.
The Granite Mountain Crew also remains in contact with the Blue Ridge crew, incident command and air command.
Steed and McDonough and others talk over the radio about thunderstorms coming in. Steed says he may have seen a few lightening strikes, reports the Serious Accident Investigation Report.
1:24 p.m. – Wade Parker texts his mother, “We’re on a 500-acre fire in Yarnell. Temps supposed to get up to 116. I gotta pretty good headache. Pray for me.
3:19 p.m. – Andrew Ashcroft texts his wife Juliann, “We could really use a little rain down here.”
3:26 p.m. – All fire crews told the National Weather Service has issued a second alert for thunderstorms. The winds could shift to the Northeast and reach 40 to 50 miles per hour.
Operations checks to make sure Marsh, as Division Alpha and Granite Mountain has heard this second weather update.
Marsh acknowledges the weather update.
3:40 p.m. – Marsh requests a face-to-face meeting with the Blue Ridge Superintendent. The Blue Ridge Superintendent hears the updated weather report.
3:42 p.m. – Eric Marsh receives a request from Paul Musser, of incident command team. Musser asks if Marsh could bring his hotshots in to protect Yarnell’s homes.
3:50 p.m. – The fire reaches McDonough’s trigger point. He starts hiking to his safety spot as well as looking for a place to deploy his fire shelter if the fire overtakes him. McDonough decides to call the Blue Ridge command with a request for a ride. Before he gets the call out, the Blue Ridge Hot Shot Superintendent arrives on an ATV and picks up McDonough.
Steed tells McDonough, “I’ve got eyes on you and the fire, and it’s making a good push.”
3:50 p.m. – Todd Abel of incident command radios March to make sure he has heard the most recent weather update. March says yes he has and that “winds are getting squirrely up here.” Abel asks if the crew is “in a good spot.” Marsh answers, “Yes, we’re in the black.”
Air Attack tells Marsh the fire is heading quickly toward Yarnell and could reach the town in one to two hours. He tells Marsh their buggies might be in the way of the fire.
Marsh tells them he has a plan to address that problem.
3:50 p.m. – McDonough gets onto the Blue Ridge Hotshot’s Superintendent’s ATV and hands the radio to Frisby. He tells Granite Mountain McDonough is safe, but the Granite Mountain buggies will have to move.
Steed says the crew has “good eyes,” on McDonough. Steed says they are “in the black,” and they will assess from there.
McDonough believes the crew is safe in the black watching the fire as he leaves on the ATV, reports the Serious Accident Investigation Report.
3:55 p.m. – As McDonough waits in the buggies, the Blue Ridge Superintendent leaves to find more men to drive all of the vehicles.
McDonough listens on the Granite Mountain radio as Steed and Marsh discuss their options, “whether to stay in the black or to come up with a plan to move,” says the Serious Accident Investigation Report.
4:04 p.m. – Wade Parker texts his mother, “This thing is running for Yarnell, just starting to evac. you can see fire on the left town on the right.”
3:55 to 4:04 p.m. – Sometime in this time frame, as Frisby searches for drivers, incident command contacts him to see if his crew can burn out from the dozer line they have created outside of Yarnell to protect buildings.
Both March and Frisby agree there is no way to burn out that line.
4:00 p.m. – Able asks Granite Mountain, “Is everything OK?”
Marsh replies, “Yes, we’re just moving.”
This is where the Serious Incident Report seeks to breakdown what happened to Granite Mountain because no one really knows why Granite Mountain moved.
Sometime around 4:05 and 4:10, the crew started walking down the two track road toward the Boulder Springs Ranch.
As they traveled along the ridge, they had a good view of the fire.
4:20 p.m. – The approximate time the Serious Accident Investigation Report estimates Granite Mountain descended from the two-track road into the chaparral hoping to find a more direct route to the Boulder Creek Ranch.
When Granite Mountain reached the saddle, the logical place to descend, they had a direct view of the ranch, but not the fire.
The ranch appeared close, but locals said that area’s geography was difficult and time consuming to traverse, full of chapparal and boulders.
The report says that Granite Mountain worked its way down the slope until the flaming front cut them off.
4:37 p.m. – Air support seeks to drop retardant on the north part of Yarnell and passes over Granite Mountain.
Marsh said, “Division Alpha, that’s exactly what we’re looking for. That’s where we want the retardant.”
The pilot, Burfiend, then has a conversation with Able at incident command on the air to ground frequency to discuss where to drop the retardant when, according to the report, “an overmodulated and static-filled transmission comes over the air-to-ground frequency”
4:39 p.m. – Reports say Steed emotionally yells over the radio, “Breaking in on Arizona 16, Granite Mountain Hotshots, we are in front of the flaming front.”
Then came ‘a very broken, with wind in the microphone transmission: “Air-to-ground 16, Granite Mountain, Air Attack, how do you read?”
The chatter on the radio about the impending advance of the fire on Yarnell and the attempt to save structures makes incident command think the call is one of the structure protection units asking for a retardant drop.
Burfiend believes Granite Mountain is OK since he just spoken with them and they were safe in the black.
Able then tries to reach Granite Mountain: “Granite Mountain, Operations on air-to-ground.”
Then Bob Caldwell of Granite Mountain calls, seconds later: “Air Attack, Granite Mountain 7, how do you copy me?”
Firefighters near the highway overhear the radio traffic. Hearing chainsaws in the background and the Granite Mountain crewmembers’ increasing urgency, they are confused – the last they heard, Granite Mountain was in the black.
Chainsaws are not a good sound, however. The firefighters begin to understand Granite Mountain may be creating a deployment area.
Less than a minute later, the firefighters hear: “Air Attack, Granite Mountain 7!” from Caldwell again.
During these calls, Burfiend and Able are discussing how to use the aircraft to stop the fire racing towards Yarnell.
The Granite Mountain transmissions are unclear to Burfiend.
Believing the Granite Mountain to be a crew saving structures, he tells them to stop yelling on the air-to-ground frequency.
Granite Mountain had believed they were calling on the Arizona 16 frequency, an emergency frequency all aircraft have programmed and monitor to focus on in emergencies.
Able believes Granite Mountain is in trouble. He tells Burfiend:
“Okay, Granite Mountain 7 sound like they got some trouble, uh, go ahead and get that, he’s trying to get you on the radio, let’s go ahead and see what we’ve got going on.”
Burfiend: “Okay, copy that, uh, I’ll get with Granite Mountain 7 then.”
Then Marsh called in sounding calm: “Bravo 33, Division Alpha with Granite Mountain.”
Burfiend: “Okay uh Division Alpha, Bravo 33.”
With more urgency Marsh says on the radio, “Yeah, I’m here with Granite Mountain Hotshots. Our escape route has been cut off. 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 sh- the shelters.”
The Serious Incident Accident Report said the crew had less than two minutes to prepare their shelter deployment site.
With the fire racing at them at 10 to 12 miles per hour, it eliminated any hope of the crew reaching the ranch or going back up the slope.
Burfiend had one last radio transmission: “Okay copy that. So you’re on the south side of the fire then?”
Marsh yells, “Affirm!”
4:42 p.m. – Approximate time investigators estimate Granite Mountain deployed their shelters.
Burfiend: “K, we’re gonna bring you the VLAT okay.”
Burfiend then tells the VLAT to orbit to the southeast until he locates the Granite Mountain crew. The VLAT Captain replies he will keep full eyes on Burfiend and be ready for an immediate drop.
For the next four minutes, Burfiend tries seven times to reach Granite Mountain to figure out where they are.
He does not reach them.
Meanwhile, a Type 2 (medium) helicopter is preparing to lift off to refuel when he hears the radio traffic.
He contacts Burfiend to offer assistance in the search.
As they fly, they cannot see the ground because of the smoke.
Burfiend continues to try and contact Granite Mountain telling them to contact him if they hear the helicopter.
As the fire sweept over the Granite Mountain crew, Mrs. Helms, the owner of the Boulder Creek Ranch, went outside to check on her dog.
Seeing that the fire has advanced significantly, she and her husband pulled all of their livestock into the barn and then returned to their house just as the fire sweept their property.
Because it is built of fire-resistant construction and has brush cleared to create a defensible space, they and their property are unharmed.
In Yarnell and Glen Ilah, a community south of Yarnell, the people have not had time to evacuate because the fire moved so quickly.
Firefighters put overwhelmed people into ambulances and vehicles and drive them to safety.
No one from the town of Yarnell or the community of Glen Illah perish because of the fire.
6:10 p.m. – The Serious Incident Accident Report says that the Ranger 58 helicopter sees the Boulder Springs Ranch and decides to investigate with Granite Mountain’s last transmissions in mind.
The helicopter reports seeing the shelters approximately one-mile south-southeast of the firefighter’s last known location.
“People involved with the fire and the search efforts express surprise at the location,” writes the report.
The pilot lands the helicopter 500 yards from the shelters. DPS officer/paramedic Eric Tarr hikes to the shelters.
6:25 p.m. – Tarr confirms nineteen fatalities.
The Serious Incident Accident Report concludes that the box canyon Granite Mountain deployed in was not survivable because of heavy brush. This brush caused direct flame contact. Temperatures exceeded 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit as the fire swept through the site.
The crew had no chance.
- Timeline sources: Yarnell Hill Fire Serious Accident Investigation, The Fire Line by Fernanda Santos and On The Burning Edge by Kyle Dickman
Spark by Pia Wyer