19 firefighters have been killed in a wildfire in Arizona. The death toll is the greatest loss of life among firefighters in the US in 80 years.
The men, known as the ‘ Hotshots’, were specially trained to deal with large wildfires. They were believed to be creating an escape route when they were overcome by the fire.
The blaze began in Yarnell, a town about 128 kilometres northwest of Phoenix. It was started by lightning, then became a fast moving wildfire, fueled by dry winds and a heat wave.
More than 2,000 acres of grassland were charred and around 200 buildings, mostly homes, destroyed.
The head of the local fire service, Dan Friajo spoke of the grief felt by the local community: “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.”
President Barack Obama and Arizona Republican senator, John Kerry are amongst those who have sent their condolences.