Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Deadly forest fires

An inquiry has begun into the deaths of 19 crack American firefighters in a forest fire at Yarnell Hill, Arizona. It was the worst death toll among US firemen since 9/11.

Altogether about 450 firefighters took on the blaze which destroyed 50 buildings and forced hundreds of people to flee their homes. It came during a heat wave which took temperatures close to all time record levels.

The victims belonged to a 20-man unit known as the Granite Mountain Hotshot crew, which had been trying to clear brush and trees that the flames were feeding on.  Only one member survived.

Perhaps the deadliest forest fire ever happened in Wisconsin in 1871. It began in the woods, but was carried on the wind to the lumber town of Peshtigo, where the sawdust that always clogged the streets provided ready fuel for the flames.  The whole town was burned to the ground and more than 1,150 people lost their lives. For the full story, see A Disastrous History of the World.

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