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Monday, July 1, 2013

wildfire in Arizona - 19 firefighters feared killed

Arizona is one of the States of US situate in the  southwestern region of the United States. It is also part of the Western United States and of the Mountain West states. It is the sixth most extensive and the 15th most populous of the 50 states. Its capital and largest city is Phoenix.  It is noted for its desert climate in its southern half, with very hot summers and quite mild winters. In addition to the Grand Canyon National Park, there are several national forests, national parks, and national monuments here.  ~ Arizona is in news for wrong reasons….

Insurers very well know how devastating a Fire  can be….. Fire is an event controlled by fuels, weather, and topography. Fire has existed throughout all time periods, and has thrived with humanity itself ~ it has been benevolent, mystical and religious symbol of many cultures – but also has caused great trouble sometimes. Over the centuries, ignition sources and fuels have been modified; ecosystems have adapted to wildland fires. Fire affects different landscapes in varying ways, and many depend on fire to maintain the ecosystem's stability and diversity. Fire ecology is a branch of ecology that concentrates on the origins of wildland fire and its relationship to the living and non-living environment.

A wildfire is an uncontrolled fire in an area of combustible vegetation that occurs in the countryside.  A wildfire differs from other fires by its extensive size, the speed at which it can spread out from its original source, its potential to change direction unexpectedly, and its ability to jump gaps such as roads, rivers and fire breaks. Wildfires are characterized in terms of the cause of ignition, their physical properties such as speed of propagation, the combustible material present, and the effect of weather on the fire. Strategies of wildfire prevention, detection, and suppression have varied over the years, and international wildfire management experts encourage further development of technology and research. While some wildfires burn in remote forested regions, they can cause extensive destruction of homes and other property located in the wildland-urban interface: a zone of transition between developed areas and undeveloped wilderness.

Initially there were reports of heatwave  in Western US States with dozens of being  treated for exhaustion and dehydration. Reports stated of air-conditioned "cooling centres"  being set up in California, Nevada and Arizona, as officials warn the heat could be life-threatening. Temperatures in some areas are expected to be near 54C (130F) - close to the world's all-time record. Several parts of California - including the desert town of Palm Springs - saw record highs on Saturday ~ the worst of all there were fears of ‘wildfires’.  Another report mentioned that more than 34 people were taken to hospital after attending an outdoor concert in Las Vegas, Nevada.  The blistering heat wave gripping California, Nevada and Arizona comes after one of the driest winters on record. The National Weather Service earlier issued a heat warning for several parts of the region until Monday morning. The US Border Patrol's rescue unit has added extra personnel this weekend as the threat of exhaustion and dehydration rises for those attempting to cross the US-Mexico border illegally on foot. At least seven migrants were  reported to have been found dead in Arizona's desert last week in lower temperatures.

Newspaper reports including BBC and Associated Press report that 19 firefighters have died while fighting the Yarnell Hill fire in Arizona.  The reports suggest that residents in the Peeples Valley area and in the town of Yarnell  were evacuated. The fire started Friday but picked up momentum Sunday as the area experienced high temperatures, low humidity and windy conditions. About two hundred firefighters are now working at the fire, but an additional 130 firefighters and more water- and retardant-dropping helicopters and aircraft are on their way.  The wildfire forced the closure of parts of state Route 89, the Arizona Department of Transportation announced. The Yarnell Hill Fire now covers nearly 2,000 acres, according to the newspaper reports.

At least 19 US firefighters have been killed battling  wildfire in central Arizona; they died while fighting the blaze threatening the town of Yarnell, about 80 miles (130km) north-west of Phoenix. The fire was started by lightning on Friday and spread rapidly amid high heat, low humidity and strong winds. It is reportedly the highest death toll for firefighters in a single incident since 9/11.  The firefighters were part of a specially trained "hotshot" unit who had battled other wildfires in New Mexico and Arizona in recent weeks, officials say. They were forced to deploy emergency tent-like structures meant to shield them from flames after becoming trapped and "something drastic" happened, Prescott Fire Chief Dan Fraijo is quoted as saying "One of the last fail-safe methods a firefighter can do is literally to dig as much as they can down and cover themselves with a protective fire-resistant material, with the hope that the fire will burn over the top of them and they can survive it," he said. "Under certain conditions there's usually only sometimes a 50% chance that they survive. It's an extreme measure that's taken under the absolute worst conditions."

With regards – S. Sampathkumar.

Photo courtesy : telegraph UK

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