The Goldendale Sentinel - Headlines & History since 1879

By Richard Lefever
For The Sentinel 

Entering devastated Yarnell


Second in a series by Richard Lefever of Bishop Services about their experiences on the Yarnell fire.

At day light the next morning we headed up Yarnell Hill, a narrow winding road that rises 2,500 feet in four miles. Our 53-foot trailers passed a sign at the bottom that says “no trucks over 40 feet recommended.”

Passing through Yarnell, Ariz., the devastation of losing 200 structures there is shockingly evident. A smoldering house foundation with a lone chimney still standing, the burned out shell of a SUV parked under the skeleton of a burned tree and the remains of a pig that perished lying dead in a corral of ashes. Yarnell looked like a war zone.

As we entered the ICP (Incident Command Post) in the morning the reality of what we are about to participate in hits home, a lonely flag pole with the American Flag is flying at half staff in front of the Model Creek School. Everyone on our crews went to work setting up the kitchen in silence.

Yarnell Valley had been evacuated and was in complete security lock down. A total of five security check points starting 23 miles outside of Yarnell were in place. A no fly zone surrounds the valley; only a fleet of Erickson Air Crane helicopters with water buckets and a fleet of Neptune Aviation DC 10’s dropping retardant were allowed to fly overhead. Even our fleet of orange trucks were stopped and held until clearance was received from the Incident Command Post. No media helicopters or spectators were allowed within miles of the devastated area. A Tempe Swat team was stationed in Yarnell. We were asked not to communicate with anyone outside of the camp until after the memorial service had taken place and the evacuated citizens had been allowed to return to their homes. There was a complete black out on cell phone and internet connections.

Jarrett Parra, BSI vice president of field operations was driving into base camp a few hours after our arrival when he pulled over to allow a motorcade carrying the first of the fallen fire fighters off the mountain was leaving for Phoenix. He witnessed a procession of 30 or more trucks escorted by official cars all with lights flashings drive by him and afterwards sat for a moment of silence.

Next week: remembering the lost fire fighters.


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