Nightly News   |  July 03, 2013

Arizona fire investigators search for answers

On Wednesday, in a solemn tribute to Arizona’s 19 fallen firefighters, fire vehicles left behind by the 19 Granite Mountain Hotshots who died in the Yarnell Hill fire slowly processed down the highway. Meanwhile, investigators are listening to radio calls made by the firefighters and focusing on the violent 45 mph winds that whipped through the area on Sunday. NBC’s Miguel Almaguer reports.

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>>> in arizona, finally some progress to report tonight in the huge wildfire that has claimed the lives of 19 firefighters. at least 10% contained now, and the investigation under way into this extraordinary and crushing loss of life, our report tonight from nbc's miguel allahger.

>> granite blown town hot shots begin their journey home.

>> reporter: 19 firefighters never made it back for the fire fight. today, their vehicles came home. along the three-hour journey. operations paused to remember the victims. back inside the 13 square mile burn zone, investigators focus on the mountainside where bows were discovered.

>> all went up the hill.

>> reporter: officials will listen to radio calls, including the may day from the hot shot team, the investigation will also focus on the weather and the violent 45-mile-an-hour winds.

>> they'll be looking at probably the entire history of the fire. and try to piece it together.

>> reporter: piecing together what went wrong, why firefighters couldn't reach emergency escape routes could take weeks. the cell phone video, of the unit responding to the fire, may offer clues.

>> i want to acknowledge brendon, number 20.

>> last night, the sole survivor of sunday's fire paid tribute to the fallen crew. brendon mcdonough was the lookout. a hillside a mile away. he warned his unit as the blaze swept toward them.

>> we can gain a lot of intelligence from this, the firefighters will be better trained to prepare to try to prevent further tragedies like this.

>> reporter: tonight on a scorched mountainside where 19 men fw gave their lives, the search for