30. Yarnell Hill Fire After Action

On September 23rd the State of Arizona published a Serious Accident Investigation Team report on the Yarnell Hill Fire, which resulted in the deaths of 19 members of the Granite Mountain Interagency Hotshot Crew.  This 122 page document, available online at www.azsf.az.gov/yarnell-hill-fire-documentation , is well worth reading.

Two of the investigation team’s sixteen conclusions pertain directly to radio communications.   First, some radios in use did not have tone guards programmed into their radios.  Thus, they could hear everyone on frequency but not necessarily talk to them.  The report mentions that they developed workarounds to continue using these radios.

Second, radio transmissions during the fire were noted by the investigation team as brief, informal and vague.  The Granite Mountain Hotshots were believed by the incident command staff to be in an area already burned, and thus safe from any fire heading in their direction.

Both of these conclusions should interest ARES members.  Many of our newest radios are no longer easy to program in the field.  Perhaps we could establish a few Districtwide 2 meter and 440 MHz repeater pairs and simplex frequencies (with analog or digital tones, as appropriate) and request that everyone possible preprogram their radios for these.