Fire chief, families defend hotshot leader after forestry official's remarks
Comments from an Arizona Forestry Division official about the deaths of the 19 Granite Mountain Hotshots continue to fuel tempers.Photo: Video by kgun9.com
PRESCOTT, Ariz. (KGUN9-TV) - Comments from an Arizona State Forestry Division official about the deaths of the 19 Granite Mountain Hotshots continue to fuel tempers, while those closest to the fallen firefighters are coming to the hotshot leader's defense.
Jerry Payne, the deputy director of of the Arizona State Forestry Division, told InvestigativeMedia.com the leader of the hotshots, Eric Marsh, broke safety protocols in the moments leading up to the firefighters deaths while battling the Yarnell Hill Wildfire on June 30.
Families of the Yarnell 19 met Tuesday night on the one month anniversary of the tragedy at Yarnell Hill, our sister station in Phoenix reported, not to remember the lives lost, but to react to the scathing report from the forestry official.
The families did not make a public comment, by they are defending hotshot leader Marsh, saying he would never put his men in harm's way, KNXV-TV reported.
Meanwhile, Prescott Fire Department Chief Dan Fraijo told KNXV he is angry with the online report.
Chief Fraijo is also standing by Marsh, who was supervising the hotshots when they died. Marsh's personnel file also shows he excelled at his job.
Payne said Marsh broke basic wildfire rules, such as leading his men through unburned vegetation and not having known where the fire or spotter were.
The purpose of the investigation is not to point fingers, Fraijo said, but to figure out what went wrong so it does not happen again.
The state forestry apologized for what they're calling Payne's "inappropriate expression of opinion."