In the wake of what was the deadliest day for firefighters in the U.S. since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Atlanta Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran released a statement to the families of the firefighters and the rest of the state of Arizona in mourning.
The firefighters were killed Sunday while fighting the Yarnell Hill fire, northwest of Phoenix. The 19 deaths made this blaze the deadliest wildland fire since 1933, according to a list from the U.S. National Wildfire Coordinating Group.
“Today, the Prescott Fire Department and the entire State of Arizona are in our thoughts after the loss of 19 elite firefighters in a wildfire,” said Cochran in the statement. “The tragic deaths of so many dedicated young men is deeply felt throughout the Atlanta firefighting community. Our hearts are heavy as we grieve with our brothers and sisters in Arizona. We offer our deepest sympathy, our prayers and the assurance that these 19 heroes will be remembered and honored in the City of Atlanta Fire Rescue Department.”
Twenty-five firefighters died when a blaze burned in light chaparral near Griffith Park, California.
“Our entire crew was lost,” Prescott Fire Chief Dan Fraijo told reporters Sunday night. “We just lost 19 of some of the finest people you’ll ever meet. Right now, we’re in crisis.”
The tragedy killed about 20 percent of the Prescott Fire Department. Fraijo said one member of the team was not with the other crew members and survived.
Authorities have information that during the blaze, the firefighters deployed their fire shelters, a sort of aluminum blanket that protects against the flames and heat.