Ariz. Fire Crew That Lost 19 Worked Front Lines

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“By the time they got there, it was moving very quickly,” Fraijo told The Associated Press of Sunday’s fire.

Hotshot crews — there are more than 100 in the U.S. — often hike for miles into the wilderness with chain saws and backpacks filled with heavy gear to build lines of protection between people and fires. They remove brush, trees and anything that might burn in the direction of homes and cities.

The Prescott-based crew this year had four rookies on its 22-member squad, according to a recent Cronkite News Service report that profiled the group (http://bit.ly/Id3Ca8 ).

State forestry spokesman Art Morrison told the AP that the firefighters were forced to deploy their emergency fire shelters — tent-like structures meant to shield firefighters from flames and heat — when they were caught in the fire. The Cronkite News Service had featured the group practicing such deployment in a worst-case scenario drill.

“One of the last fail safe methods that a firefighter can do under those conditions is literally to dig as much as they can down and cover themselves with a protective — kinda looks like a foil type — fire-resistant material — with the desire, the hope at least, is that the fire will burn over the top of them and they can survive it,” Fraijo said.

“Under certain conditions there’s usually only sometimes a 50 percent chance that they survive,” he said. “It’s an extreme measure that’s taken under the absolute worst conditions.”

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