Nightly News | July 01, 2013
>>> good evening, and when the news broke late last night, it was such a staggering number, people wondered if what they were hearing was correct. 19 firefighters dead, all of them gone as a result of a single fire in arizona . they were all members of one hot shot crew and in the firefighter business, especially out west during fire season, hot shot crews are the equivalent of special forces . sadly, the staggering loss along with the destruction of so much property in and around yarnell , arizona , is proof that even the best are no match for a dangerous, galloping fire, moving fast with ample fuel. we begin with miguel almaguer in nearby prescott, arizona . good evening.
>> reporter: brian, good evening. the nation hasn't lost this many firefighters in a wildfire in decades. the blaze is still burning out of control as hundreds of firefighters on the front lines mourn the loss of some of their own. today, a convoy of coroner vans carried the bodies of the 19 fallen firefighters, died protecting homes, dying to save lives.
>> we think we have the area where the hot shot crews were.
>> the granite mountain hot shot team overcome by flames. the winds shifted and the flames turning on firefighters.
>> we are devastated. we just lost 19 of the finest people you will ever meet.
>> reporter: sparked by lightning, the yarnell hill fire exploded out of control.
>> we got our animals, kids, and we are safe, but our home will probably be destroyed.
>> reporter: hundreds evacuated, half the town decimated. 200 homes gone.
>> the house on fire when we left. everything was there but it was on fire. so it's gone.
>> who is headed up for the help with the downed firefighters?
>> reporter: officials say the crew deployed their fire shelters, an emergency tent-like blanket, designed to shield flames and heat. the inferno was too intense. the group of elite and highly skilled firefighters hike in for miles, carrying 40-pound packs, using chainsaws and shovels to cut firelines. teams can go two weeks in the wilderness.
>> it's challenging, the individuals that come through here, typically choose to do it, they enjoy the work, it is rewarding.
>> in 2003 , 29 firefighters died in wildland fires, in 1994 , 36 killed, including 14 at colorado's storm king mountain fires. in 1933 , 29 died fighting the griffith park fire in los angeles . the forest fire chief says everyone will examine the tragedy in arizona .
>> we absolutely have to learn from this tragedy in order to prevent the next one.
>> reporter: with the blaze tonight still burning out of control, entire subdivisions remain threatened. 400 firefighters now on the front lines , battling a deadly inferno with heavy hearts.
>> just proud of them. just proud of them and proud of our country. god bless them.
>> reporter: the yarnell hill fire is 0% contained, charred nearly 9,000 acres, a serious threat on the move. brian, the president called the 19 firefighters who lost their lives heroes.
>> miguel almaguer, starting us off not far from the scene.