National

Sep 28, 2013 4:43 PM by Monica Gouty

Radio problems may have led to deaths of 19 firefighters

PRESCOTT, Ariz. (AP) - An investigation into the June deaths of 19 firefighters killed while battling an Arizona blaze has found a litany of problems stemming from inadequate radio communication.

The report by a team of fire experts cites improperly programmed radios, vague updates, and a 30-minute communication blackout just before the flames engulfed the men.

The report says at the moment the firefighters were killed, an air tanker carrying fire retardant was hovering overhead, waiting for an update about their location.

The findings were released Saturday.

The 20-member Granite Mountain Hotshots team arrived on June 30 to fight the fire outside Yarnell, about 80 miles northwest of Phoenix. About nine hours later, the crew radioed that they were trapped by flames and deploying their shelters. One crew member who was assigned as the lookout survived.

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