AZ Panel Fines State Forestry Commission for Hotshot Firefighters' Deaths

The Industrial Commission of Arizona has found that the Forestry Division committed willful and serious safety violations during the Yarnell Hill fire in June.

After investigating the deaths of 19 hotshot firefighters during the Yarnell Hill Fire in June, the Industrial Commission of Arizona has cited the Arizona State Forestry Division for several safety offenses and issued $559,000 in proposed fines. The commission released a report outlining the safety offenses, which includes one willful serious violation that states in part, "When the employer knew that suppression of extremely active chaparral fuels was ineffective and that wind would push active fire towards non-defensible structures, firefighters working downwind were not promptly removed from exposure to smoke inhalation, burns, and death."

The report states that the employer "implemented suppression strategies that prioritized protection of non-defensible structures and pastureland over firefighter safety."

In addition to this violation, which accounts for all but $7,000 of the proposed fines, the commission cited the division for one serious violation in which the "employer did not furnish to each of his employees employment and a place of employment which were free from recognized hazards that were causing or likely to cause death or serious physical harm to their employees."

The willful serious violation amounted to $545,000 of the proposed fines. The money from the fines would go to the families of the firefighters who died. According to NBC News, the Industrial Commission used a fire-incident consulting firm to interview more than 40 local, state, and federal fire and forestry officials who were a part of the Yarnell Hill campaign.

The Forestry Division has yet to comment on the report.

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