Tenderfoot Wildfire

On June 8, a fire began burning on the east side of Yarnell, Ariz. the other side of town from a deadly fire in 2013 that killed 19 Granite Mountain Hotshots, the elite wildland fire crew based in Prescott, Ariz. That fire was on a lot of people’s mind this week as the towns of Yarnell and Peeples Valley were evacuated, the highway to Phoenix closed and crews of firefighters, emergency personnel and incident strategy teams set up Incident Command Post in Peeples Valley to fight the Tenderfoot fire. As of writing on June 11, there are 6 Hotshot crews, 2 Type 2 initial attack crews 22 Engine crews, 2 light, 3 heavy helicopter 2 air attack fixed wing aircraft platforms, 3 bulldozers, logistics, support, managers and volunteers totaling upwards of 350-400. It takes a lot of people, resources, money and time to fight wildland fire. They are doing really well as of today — no people or homes have been lost. Three outbuildings have been lost. The fire is now 30% contained. Wildland fire situations can change with the wind, though. The awareness and preventative action taken after the Yarnell Hill fire likely prevented the fire from spreading nearer to structures and families in Yarnell. Crews have been digging preventative fire lines and clearing fuel for the fire—the dry, high desert foliage—ahead of any incident. While I reported the second and third day at the fire, crews are going to be out there for as long as it takes to run its course. 

Arizona is strict on media on wildland incident scenes. They are unpredictable and can escalate without warning. While on assignment, I photographed the fire from the safety of the ICP, but many men and women are out on the smoke-filled  Weaver Mountains with heavy equipment, hiking rough terrain. I want to share some photos from the days I spent with the crews working so hard to keep us safe and in times of crisis and some of the people affected by these fires.


Deborah Pfingston, mother of Andrew Ashcraft, one of the 19 Granite Mountain Hotshots who were killed in the 2013 Yarnell Hill Fire, and her husband Jerry at the Incident Command Post for the Tenderfoot Fire on June 10 in Peeples Valley, Ariz. Deborah brought fresh fruit and beef jerky for the crews working the current fire.

Globe Hotshots plan their next move as theTenderfoot Fire burns on the east side of Yarnell, Ariz. June 9 as seen from the Incident Command Post in Peeples Valley, Ariz.

Yarnell resident Nidia Borboa, center left, watches her children Angel, 5, right, twins Nubia, left, and Nadia (not pictured), 6, and grandsons Michael, 4, right, and Gabriel, 2, second from left, play games in the American Red Cross evacuation center at Yavapai College in Prescott, Ariz.

Deborah Pfingston, mother of Andrew Ashcraft, one of the 19 Granite Mountain Hotshots who were killed in the 2013 Yarnell Hill Fire, wears a memorial bracelet for her son. The white band is a reproduction of a homemade bracelet that Ashcraft was wearing when he died fighting the fire reminding him to always “be better”.

Wickenburg Fire Chief Ed Temerowski, left, coordinates with private contractors Gene Lumis, center, and Ronnie Hernandez, right, as the crews prepare for another day of battling the Tenderfoot Fire on June 10

A retro-fitted DC-10 plane prepares to drop fire retardant to fight the Tenderfoot Fire as it burns on the east side of Yarnell, Ariz. on June 9

From left, Aaron Ferro, Sage Polchies and Mike Fewell of Engine 671 from the Carson National Forest near Taos, New Mexico, eat breakfast before fighting the Tenderfoot Fire on June 10

Phoenix NPR affiliate KJZZ reporter Stina Sieg at the scene

Navajo Scout Lyle Joe washes his hands with bottled water in his campsite, as he prepares for another day of battling the Tenderfoot Fire on June 10

Firefighters prepare for another day of battling the Tenderfoot Fire on June 10

Tatanka Hotshot Adam Ayala fills and carries three five-gallon cubbies of water in preparation for fighting the Tenderfoot Fire on June 10

A helicopter carries buckets of water to fight the Tenderfoot Fire as it burns on the east side of Yarnell, Ariz. on June 9

Peeples Valley resident Jerry Goffena watches as the Tenderfoot Fire burns on the east side of Yarnell, Ariz. June 9 as seen from the Incident Command Post in Peeples Valley, Ariz. The deadly 2013 Yarnell Hill fire was on the west side of town. Goffena said he watched the 2013 fire burn all night, “You remember reading Exodus with the plume of smoke by day and the pilar of fire by night?”

Navajo Scouts rest briefly in the shade while setting up a resupply station for crews working the Tenderfoot Fire on June 10

Globe Hotshots plan their next move as theTenderfoot Fire burns on the east side of Yarnell, Ariz. on June 9

Firefighters from the Bureau of Land Management out of Phoenix, Ariz. prepare for another day of battling the Tenderfoot Fire June 10 at the Incident Command Post in Peeples Valley, Ariz.

Tribal Nations Rescue Team firefighter Louis Charlie Jr. hammers in a stake to set up a resupply station June 10 at the Incident Command Post in Peeples Valley, Ariz.

A retro-fitted DC-10 plane drops fire retardant to fight the Tenderfoot Fire as it burns on the east side of Yarnell, Ariz. on June 9

Copyright © 2017 Caitlin O'Hara. All rights reserved.
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