Poor Communication Cited in Firefighters' Deaths

19 died in Arizona fighting fires in June


PRESCOTT, Ariz. — For 33 minutes on June 30, as 19 members of an elite firefighting crew known as the Granite Mountain Hotshots marched through a burning forest south of this city in Central Arizona, no one knew for sure where they were or why they descended from the ridge they had been traveling and onto a basin where they would die.

The finding, revealed in an official investigative report on the fire that was released on Saturday, encapsulates one of several unanswered questions surrounding the event, the deadliest day for firefighters since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, and perhaps the most vexing: Why did the men end up where they did?

While the report, the result of a three-month investigation, said there had been poor communication between the firefighters and the command center — some of it because of spotty equipment — it did not assign any blame for the tragedy and said proper procedures were followed.