Forestry spokesman: 19 firefighters dead in Arizona

(pictures courtesy: NBC News)
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A wildfire that killed 19 firefighters in Arizona also destroyed an estimated 200 homes in a central Arizona community.

Dry grass near the communities of Yarnell and Glen Isla fed the fast-moving blaze, which was whipped up by wind and raced through the homes.

An Arizona forestry official says the 19 firefighters died battling a fast-moving wildfire. Forestry spokesman Art Morrison says the firefighters were caught by the fire Sunday afternoon near the central Arizona town of Yarnell.

He says they were forced to deploy their fire shelters. Earlier Sunday, the wildfire prompted evacuations of 50 homes in several communities about 85 miles northwest of Phoenix. Later Sunday afternoon, the Yavapai County Sheriff's Office expanded the evacuations to include more residents in the town of Yarnell.

Morrison says no injuries or deaths have been reported from that area other than the firefighters.

"Right now, what we do know is that 19 firefighters were killed in what's probably the worst disaster that's taken place in wildland history here in the state of Arizona. We grieve for the families. We grieve for the department. We grieve for the city," said Prescott Fire Chief Dan Fraijo. "The families are in terrible shock. Fire departments are like families, and so the entire fire department, the entire area, the entire state is being devastated by the magnitude of this incident."

About 200 firefighters are fighting the wildfire, which has also forced the closure of parts of state Route 89.

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