Today marks the one-year anniversary of the Yarnell Hill Fire in Arizona, which killed 19 “hotshot” firefighters. This summer, the interagency wildland fire community will mark the one-year anniversary of the Yarnell Hill Fire accident and the 20-year anniversary of the South Canyon Fire accident of July 6, 1994.
Although these accidents were separated in time by 19 years, they are bound together by several tragic commonalities. Both accidents were burnovers; both accidents resulted in multiple fatalities of highly trained, skilled, and experienced wildland firefighters; and both occurred during devastating wildfire seasons in which 34 wildland firefighters lost their lives in the line of duty.
The National Wildlife Coordinating Group (NWCG) believes that the anniversaries of these accidents merit designating Monday, June 30 through Sunday, July 6 as “A Week to Remember, Reflect and Learn,” to honor the memories of all fallen wildland firefighters and to reflect on lessons learned from different types of wildland fire accidents.
The NWCG is encouraging all local, state and federal agencies with roles and responsibilities in wildland fire suppression to participate in this commemoration as they see fit.
From June 30 through July 6, the “6 Minutes for Safety Program” will provide resources to facilitate reflection on, and discussion of, the South Canyon and Yarnell Hill fire accidents as well as some of the hazards that pose the most serious risks to wildland firefighters. The 6 Minutes for Safety Resources will be available online at the Lessons Learned Center website at http://www.wildfirelessons.net/6minutesforsafety and at http://www.nifc.gov/nicc/sitreprt.pdf.
Many positive changes have occurred in the culture of the interagency wildland fire community, and many effective tools have been developed, that have significantly enhanced the safety of wildland firefighters during the 20 years since the South Canyon Fire accident occurred. Agencies with roles and responsibilities in wildland fire suppression continue to work together to do everything possible to reduce the likelihood of similar events in the future.
The “Week to Remember, Reflect and Learn” offers an opportunity to renew a commitment to enhancing the safety of the men and women dedicated to protecting lives, property and natural and cultural resources throughout the United States.