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Credible evidence of June 30, 2013, "friendly fire" incidents in the Sesame / Shrine Corridor area?

Contributing Author - Douglas Fir

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This YHFR post derives, in part, from our 2020 Applied Human Factors and Ergonomics (AHFE) conference paper titled:  Credible evidence continues to surface regarding a likely "friendly fire" incident along the Sesame Street and Shrine Corridor area on June 30, 2013. The abstract follows with the full paper below.

On June 30, 2013, nineteen Prescott F.D. Granite Mountain Hot Shots (GMHS) were entrapped and killed on the Yarnell Hill Fire, an Arizona State Forestry wildfire. The Serious Accident Investigation Team (SAIT) conclusion published in the Serious Accident Investigation Report (SAIR) (September 2013) unbelievably stated they found “no indication of negligence, reckless actions, or violations of policy or protocol.”

Discussed in the SAIT-SAIR, a planned firing operation along old roads relying on previous fuel mitigation and new dozer line to backfire from was concluded as no longer an option. Mid-afternoon wind shear, caused more active fire behavior with spotting. The two-mile flanking fire became more head fire-like and moved southeasterly. Based on video-audio footage and WF-FF Hearsay Exceptions, evidence is presented that several independent WF-FF groups likely fired off this corridor without communicating these actions, while the GMHS vacated their Safety Zone and hiked downhill toward the supposedly threatened Ranch. “Destructive goal pursuit” is the single basic error attributed to all catastrophes, because seemingly unrelated elements interacting with others, the side effects and outcomes never assessed, soon become problems never considered possible. Notwithstanding mounting evidence that it was unattainable, why would the GMHS continue to pursue their precariously dubious Ranch attempt?

Research indicates the greater insecurity a group feels of their chance of achieving goals, the harder they try. The more likely they considered failure, the more entrenched their behavior became. As they observed adverse fire weather and fire behavior - they interpreted conditions more negatively than reality, searching for further evidence to suggest the failure likelihood, while the indicators caused them to put even more effort into goal achievement. The GMHS, stressed and distracted, must have felt their only option was to vacate their Safety Zone. Research of audible and visual tests on adult humans, measured acuity loss while engaged in attention-narrowing activities. Under stressful conditions while focused intently on visual tasks, auditory stimuli decreased significantly. Conversely, when the subjects focused on spoken messages, the visual image activity diminished. Therefore, when attention is focused to one event, it essentially detracts from another task. Furthermore, a person intently listening to audible cues, (e.g. radio or cell phone) could have diminished visual performance, and someone intently visually focused on something could have diminished hearing. Thus, tunnel vision and auditory exclusion are real, dangerously impacting the way wildland firefighters do their jobs.

This tragedy demonstrates remarkable recklessness in the face of a desperately planned goal. It seems they only cared about getting down to the Helm’s Ranch. They knew better yet wanted something badly enough to ignore their gut feelings, defined as destructive goal pursuit. Goal setting, critical thinking, and other decision-making and leadership characteristics are addressed, as well as goal-setting, single-mindedness, and poor leadership dysfunctions often resulting in disaster; what can happen when goals are placed above all else, concealing possible dire consequences. Some human behavior details are covered attempting to draw leadership lessons from this tragedy to avert similar future similar circumstances wildfire tragedies, of the going-too-far goal setting perils.


Citing former Special Forces soldier turned Investigative Journalist, Jack Murphy, "At the end of the day, you can't make everyone happy, and why would you even want to? Part of being a man means that you make enemies because you stand for something. ... The truth is horrifying, and people will hate you for telling it." Find some other profession besides investigative journalism if you want to be well liked. (p. 251) (emphasis added)

"There is a double standard, and powerful individuals want to control the overall narrative and claim credit for operational events without people like us getting in their way. (p. 255) (emphasis added)

"Covering scandals in the military has made me an unpopular individual. People are angrier that a former member of the special operations community writes about things ... groupthink is strong in the military and many will never break free from it." (p. 219) Adversity is a great way to find out which of your friends are the real deal and which are just superficial pretenders. Real soldiers don't run from the truth, even if it's ugly." (p. 220) (emphasis added)

"People engage in groupthink to create a consensus mentality. If you step outside of their moral guidelines, they use shaming techniques to disconnect you from your network." (p. 254) (emphasis added)


"Friendly fire" in military combat actions is, and has been, a common, albeit ignored or discounted occurrence, since the very beginnings of warfare. In this post, we will utilize military warfare as an analog for wildland firefighting, and then use burning out, firing, and /or backfiring operations resulting in near misses and / or deaths as an analog for military operations resulting in friendly fire. We may make occasional references to the word "backburn" - a hybrid FF weasel word term that seems to have gained some sort of debatable acceptance in the wildland firefighting world when it is / was used by regarding a FF in context.

Given that, we will now consider, several germane, paraphrased excerpts used as analogues for wildland fire incidents of friendly fire, from the book titled: "Amicicide: The problem of Friendly Fire in Modern War" by Lt. Colonel Charles R. Shrader, US Army Command and General Staff College. Fort Leavenworth, KS (2005 - reprinted from the 1982 edition) (all emphasis below is added)

Let the analogs begin. In sum, this Yarnell Hill Fire Revelations (YHFR) post claims only a narrative exposition of selected examples of "separate and distinct smoke columns (plumes) revealing a wildland firing operation. " Therefore, its conclusions must be considered highly speculative and tentative in nature. (p. viii)

Inasmuch as speculation on such slim and slippery data is likely to be misleading, it is perhaps better to turn our attention to the less finite, but more satisfying, narrative description of specific instances of friendly fire. (p. xii)

The key factor in wildland friendly fire, as in other types, is the ever-present element in battle, human error. ( p. 1)

Direct human error seems to be the most significant causative factor.

(p. 25) In view of the potentially negative drastic effects of friendly fire incidents on wildland fires, it should remain an actively sought goal.

Given the dearth of literature on the subject, ... So far, that has been the case for the YH Fire as well as military friendly fire incidents as well.

While it is possible to discern cases of amicide [friendly fire] in individual near miss and fatality reports, ... We have accomplished this in some cases using the WLF LLC Incident Reviews or WF anecdotes included below.

Friendly fire incidents on wildland fires are the natural product of the fog of battle. In every wildland fire, inexperienced and nervous WFs and FFs, poorly planned or inadequately coordinated operations, and occasionally poor firing discipline or true mistaken identification result in friendly forces inadvertently engaging each other with friendly fire. (p. 101) In at least two of the separate firing operations, the personnel were, in fact, hybrid FFs with little wildland fire experience, much less firing operations experience. And one was an inexperienced wildland Engine Boss that was told to fire their way out by an unknown alleged fireline supervisor ... and so they did.

By far the most causative factor in all wildland firing operation incidents have been some lack of communication and / or coordination between units was the primary cause. (p. 102) Exactly what occurred on one of the the firing operations when there was no communication or coordination between / among adjoining forces, both Engine Crews igniting and the GMHS failing to communicate their intentions and positions.

The measures required to prevent them are also simple in concept and easy in achievement. Firing operations must be planned and thoroughly coordinated with detailed attention given to the possible occurrence of friendly fire possibilities. (pp. 102-103)

While human error cannot be eliminated from wildland fire operations, its incidence and effects can be attenuated somewhat if the attention is given it by those charged with the responsibilities of the safety and welfare of the lives of WFs and FFs and the fates.

This post, limited though it has been by the time available for its preparation and the inadequacies of the available evidence, nevertheless permits some tentative conclusions to be drawn, and each incident, standing by itself provides some insight into the rare, yet possible, problem of friendly fire incidents on wildland fires.

Given the obvious weaknesses of the actual numbers, these quantities must be viewed as a rough estimate of the order of magnitude. Errors due to direct human error predominated. The largest number of incidents (due to lack of adequate coordination). (p. 118)

Paraphrasing Regan, 'while there have been many different reasons for individual accidents in battle, human error consistently has been present in all of them, and this is something that everyone ... must learn to accept. In order to reduce the number of friendly fire incidents, we must learn to gain acceptance, to come to terms with the existence of the problem, rather than attempting to hush it up or sweep it under the carpet.' (emphasis added) (Regan 1995)

Sound familiar? Like the YH Fire and the email regarding the YH Fire Staff Ride, between BRHS Supt. Frisby and the USFS Human Dimensions Joseph Harris regarding so much of the evidence "swept under the rug."

According to BRHS Supt. Frisby the "human factors ... were ... off the charts ... that day" according to Frisby. Furthermore and even worse, "there was so much that went on that day that is being swept under the rug."Frisby realized the value of the June 30, 2013, events fearing that they may be lost or discounted, he hopes for the best with this statement: "I would love the opportunity to talk about it. believe there is a lot to be learned from this event and if we are to adopt this as an agency we need to get it right." (YHFR Part 3 of 5 - Figure 61. Dec. 21, 2019)

Figure 2. April 12, 2016, email regarding the YH Fire Staff Ride, "Human Factors!" from BRHS Supt. Brian Frisby to the USFS alleged Human Dimensions specialist Joseph Harris regarding "so much that went on that day that is being swept under the rug. Source: ??

There is obviously a conflict of evidence between the official, alleged SAIT-SAIR "Factual" report and the evidence available and given by those actually involved that fateful day. "This conflict of evidence is so wide that one is left with no other conclusion than that someone is lying as part of a cover-up." (Regan 1995)

"Truth may be the first victim in [wildfires], but there is no reason that truth should continue to be denied once the [fire] has ended. Many WFs and FFs and civilians know the truth of the events that led to the deaths of these men. Nothing is gained by cover-ups except delay, the truth cannot be permanently suppressed." (emphasis added) (Regan 1995) This has been occurring in the military since early warfare in Greece and now in the wildland fire world. And the truth being suppressed? That's been going on since the Mann Gulch Fire. (1949)

"With regard to leadership capabilities, his inflexibility was to be both his own undoing and almost his entire command. Discipline was one thing, but a closed mind was no adequate response to the crisis that would unfold. And one is and will be for a long time struggling for an explanation of what happened here." (emphasis added) (Regan 1995)

Address this about EM using post from commenters


Consider now a couple of recent WLF LLC posts titled: Has Nothing Changed? and What We Learned from the Yarnell Hill Fire Deaths (November 2018) Has Nothing Changed? November 1, 2018 / wildfire lessons - By Wildland Fire LLC Travis Dotson

Pay particular attention to the insight of commenter "alex" who obviously speaks from experience, with some authority, with a fair amount of knowledge about the YH Fire debacle, the GMHS tragedy, working around / with some Hot Shot Crews, and the causal human factors that is counter to the SAIT-SAIR. Kudos to you "alex" and thank you for speaking your mind and sharing your thoughts.

"What We Learned from the Yarnell Hill Fire Deaths"

alex - November 2, 2018 at 10:05 am

"What we learned from Yarnell Hill. As an industry we learned that Arizona state OSHA and the Arizona Dept. of Forestry have very different interpretations of what needs changed and who might be to blame. We also learned that absolutely no one knows what actually happened. By now we have learned that people want to put a sticker on their hardhat, lament the tragedy and pretend like it never happened." (emphasis added)

On the contrary, there are plenty of WFs and FFs and Supervisors that were there that day that know exactly what actually happened ... and why.

And they "know exactly what actually happened" that day, and that include yourselves - those reading this post. You do know exactly what happened, you just don't exactly know why!They were just firefighters. This is not what they were trained [to do]. Hotshots are never “just firefighters”. Hotshots are the elite of firefighting. They answer to no one below a division supervisor on the hill, they make decisions affecting the entire fire, they communicate with adjoining resources when they deem it necessary, they are completely independent of the fire to the point that they don’t even stay in camp with the 'just firefighters'. All of this culminates into a culture of machismo and elitism so strong that 19 people died and no one has any clue why they moved, where they were going or even what their intention was. How is it that we have hundreds of people operating on the line every day who have no accountability and are given such amazing leeway to make whatever decision they want without any outside input that 19 people died with the entire fire thinking that they were in a safety zone up to the moment they futilely tried to break through the radio chatter to try to get support." (emphasis added)

The guy is actually more on point than he realizes in many respects from the WFs and FFs that engage in wildland firefighting that I have talked to over the years since this tragedy occurred. And the "19 people died and no one has any clue why they moved, where they were going or even what their intention was" is classic GMHS pattern under the GMHS leadership.

"I know that if I took my crew out of a safety zone to march through decadent brush, without communicating with anyone, on a day when shifting, strong winds were expected. If I survived, I would be prosecuted." (emphasis added)

Prosecuted may be a bit much but chastised for sure. And more than likely you would not do that nor hopefully, have you done that.

"The fire culture of elitism allows crews to operate with no oversight and little accountability as long as the word “hotshot” is written across their vehicles." (emphasis added)

There is some truth to his claim about the fire culture of elitism allowing crews to operate with no oversight and little accountability as long as the word “hotshot” is written across their vehicles.

"This isn't about the inherent danger of the industry." (emphasis added)

Except for the Draconian punishment for foolishly marching through decadent brush without communication during strong winds, alex once again, is more on point than he realizes. It is a rather foolish and quite dangerous habit to hike through the unburned that fits right into the "Normalization of Deviance" and the "Bad Decisions With Good Outcomes" category worthy of some serious correction. And prosecuted for sure for being responsible for killing your men.

Whether alex or anyone else likes it or believes it or not, it really is "about the inherent danger of the industry" because wildland firefighting in general and Hot Shot Crews in particular, are key components of the wildland fire industry; so they are just gonna have to get over it and deal with it ... unless they want to be a part of changing it in order to reduce WF and FF wildfire fatalities.

alex - November 21, 2018 at 10:43 am "Please forgive me if this comes off as argumentative or insensitive. The impression that hotshot crews operate independent of instruction comes not only from decades of working next to them but also from the fact that 19 of them died and even now, no one has any idea what they were doing or why they left the safety of the black. Yes Eric Marsh was assigned as the Div. Sup. and this led to even less communication outside of that crew and no oversight whatsoever as the only overhead assigned to supervise that was part of the crew. Obviously the plan formulated by boots on the ground was bought (sic) into by the Div. Sup. because he was a crewmember and probably helped to create it. This is not independent? Who did he run that plan by that was his supervisor?" (emphasis added)

As stated above, on the contrary, there are plenty of WFs and FFs and Supervisors that were there that day that know exactly what they were doing. And a pretty good "idea why they left the safety of the black." And that includes yourselves - those reading this post. For one, no one held a literal gun to their heads and forced them to leave the black. They left of their own free will. Figuratively, they may have succumbed to the "perception is reality" fallacy so often bandied about and therefore, they may have felt emotionally compelled to obey an unsafe order.

Under stress, perception can have the force of reality. Make reality the reality."The point that I am trying to make is that while hotshots may be “problem solvers” or “the tip of the spear” ,they are still given more latitude than any other resource outside of smokejumpers. This is viewed as carte blanche to operate any way they feel. I have personally seen the results of this in having backburns lit under my crew by hotshot crews that no one knew were in the area, having aerial resources currently In (sic) use redirected by hotshots without any communication whatsoever, having hotshot supervisors give direction to my crewmembers without any recognition of chain of command and literally countless times that my crew has had to work adjacent to them only to have them pretend like we didn’t exist and I receive nothing but condescension, disdain and impatience from the supervisor when I make an attempt to communicate with adjoining resources (talk to the hotshots). Nothing has changed in regards to this behavior. I received that exact condescension, and disdain this season even." (emphasis added)

Once again, Mr. alex is actually more on point than he realizes in many respects from the WFs and FFs that engage in wildland firefighting that I have talked to over the years concerning his views on HS Crews, albeit somewhat jaded or maybe just experienced.

"Nowhere is this more obvious than the example of Yarnell. 19 people died, no one has any idea what they were doing or where they were going. There was no attempt to inform anyone of their movements or their intentions. No one seems to find that strange. It’s just part of how hotshots operate.. Where I work, operating adjacent to a hotshot crew is the 19th watchout situation." (emphasis added)

On the contrary, there are plenty of WFs and FFs and Supervisors that were there that day that do, in fact, have many ideas what they were doing and where they were going. And their Watch Out #19 is Death From Above includes overhead because after all, they are known to make bad decisions from time to time, (i.e. Holloway Fire 2012).

"There was no attempt to inform anyone of their movements or their intentions" is very accurate because that is the way the GMHS were known to do things. The same applies to the WFs and FFs performing the likely Sesame Street and Shrine Corridor area firing operation." (emphasis added)

There were many Structure / Municipal FFs, often referred to as "Hybrids," on the June 30, 2013, YH Fire that performed quite well. And there were others not so much. These "others" may have been the ones involved with the likely firing operation. And the fact that alex use the colloquial term "backburn" reveals to me that he (or she) is possibly a "Hybrid" FF and not a "real" WF. As stated above, on the contrary, there are plenty of WFs and FFs and Supervisors that were there on the YH Fire that fateful that day that knew exactly what they were doing and where they were going; and none of them were entrapped, deployed fire shelters, or died.


Credible Evidence Continues to Surface Regarding a likely “Friendly Fire” Incident along the Sesame Street and Shrine Corridor Area on June 30, 2013

Fred J. Schoeffler², Lance Honda², and Joy A. Collura²

¹ Sheff LLC Pine, United States of America

² Prineville, United States of America

³ Yarnell Hill Fire Revelations, Congress, United States of America

Abstract. On June 30, 2013, nineteen Granite Mountain Hot Shots (GMHS) perished on the Yarnell Hill Fire. The Serious Accident Investigation Team - Report conclusion states: “no indication of negligence, reckless actions, or violations of policy or protocol.”(emphasis added) Was an unfeasible firing operation dismissed? Video-audio and Hearsay-Exception evidence indicated uncollaborated independent action while GMHS hiked downhill through unburned fuels. Was there a concurrent rogue firing operation? Indications of an unfeasible goal pursuit continued with everything contradicting a sound plan. Contemplated failure led to more entrenched behaviors. Weather deterioration and increased fire behavior were interpreted unrealistically. Both visual and auditory stimuli decreased significantly under stress; listening to cues weakened vision - intense visual cues diminished hearing triggering tunnel vision and auditory exclusion. Fixated goal setting, non-critical thinking, indecision-making, single-mindedness, and leadership dysfunctions concealing possible dire consequences resulted in disaster. “Friendly Fire” decisions and actions are discussed for lessons to reduce similar tragedies.

Keywords: Wildland Fire ∙ Hearsay Exception ∙ Tunnel Vision ∙ Auditory Exclusion ∙ Destructive Goal Pursuit ∙ Friendly Fire


On June 30, 2013, nineteen Prescott F.D. Granite Mountain Hot Shots (GMHS) were entrapped and killed on the Yarnell Hill Fire. The Serious Accident Investigation Team (SAIT) conclusion published in their Report (SAIR) (Sept. 2013) questionably stated they found “no indication of negligence, reckless actions, or violations of policy or protocol” (emphasis added) [1]. A firing operation along old roads in the Sesame Street - Shrine Corridor improved with a dozer to backfire from was unfeasible [1]. This paper posits evidence of several independent WF-FF groups likely firing off the Corridor area - without collaborating their actions - while the GMHS left their Safety Zone (S/Z) and hiked downhill toward a supposed “at-risk” Boulder Springs Ranch (BSR) [1-5].

Destructive goal pursuit is deemed the single basic error credited to all disasters [6]. Seemingly unrelated elements interacting with others when their side effects and outcomes are unassessed, soon become problems never considered possible. Research indicates the greater insecurity a group feels of their chance of achieving goals, the harder they try [6]. Despite mounting evidence that it was unfeasible, why would the GMHS continue to pursue their BSR attempt? Surely, they observed adverse fire weather and fire behavior – yet, they unrealistically interpreted those conditions, seeking more evidence implying failure as likely. These signs would ultimately influence them to put even more effort into their fatal BSR goal pursuit that surely seemed counterintuitive [6]. Being so totally leader-dependent was detrimental to the GMHS.

The GMHS - dehydrated, tired, stressed, distracted – somehow felt the need to vacate their S/Z. Research indicates that under stressful conditions while focused intently on visual tasks, auditory stimuli decreases significantly [7]. Conversely, when focused on spoken messages, the visual image activity diminishes. So, a WF intently listening to audible cues, (e.g. radio or cell phone), could have diminished visual performance; a WF intently visually focused could have diminished hearing. Notable hastiness in the face of a desperately pursued goal, they focused on the BSR. They knew better, ignored their training, logic, and gut feelings because of destructive goal pursuit [6]. Hence, tunnel vision, auditory exclusion, and the bizarre destructive goal pursuit are bona fide, potentially critical threats that pose unusual hazards for wildland firefighting [6-7].

Wildfire Rules - Firing Operations - Friendly Fire - Hearsay Rules

Former U.S. Forest Service (USFS) Fire Director Jerry Williams stated: “The Ten Standard Firefighting Orders must be firm rules of engagement. They cannot be simple guidelines, and they cannot be ‘bargained.’ They are the result of hard-learned lessons. Compromising one or more of them is a common denominator of all tragedy fires. On the Dude, South Canyon, and Thirtymile Fires, the Fire Orders were ignored, overlooked, or otherwise compromised“ [8].

“Wildland fire is a high-risk, high-consequence business. …[often] surrounded by uncertainty and danger. … [T]he tragedies at Dude, South Canyon, and Thirtymile and the accident at Cerro Grande remind us of the danger that is always present in our world. Entrapment avoidance must be our primary emphasis and our measure of professional operational success" [8].

This “Yarnell Hill Fire - 2013” (4-30-19 - WTKTT) video reveals three GMHS performing a minor firing operation near their “lunch spot” from a photo taken from near Deertrack Drive at 1036 to “get the fire squared up with the two-track road” [1]. The three GMHS, (left - Steed in red hardhat) working as a firing group began an 'indirect' burnout Sunday. The one on the right is pointing with his arm outstretched or possibly using a flare gun.

Figure 3. Video of GMHS FFs performing a mid-morning firing operation in the chaparral. Source: Anonymous By Request provider, YouTube, WTKTT

Escape Routes are the paths WFs / FFs take from unsafe present locations to safer ones; it is the most elusive safety prong due to its ever-changing status [9], performed by the abstract GMHS fatal escape route. A recent WF study found key portions of entrapment potential lies in human factors, prior WF entrapment investigations have similar reviews and proposals, weak entrapment investigation process and reporting systems, and a likely sizable under-reporting of entrapments [10]. Why did the GMHS skillfully pursue a true E/R to get to a S/Z, pervert that term, leave their viable S/Z - and then fatally hike downhill in chimneys / chutes of unburned chaparral [1-2]?

Wildland Firing Operations Tactics and Strategy - Fighting Fire with Fire

Burning out and backfiring are dissimilar firing operations, often misunderstood and substituted. Burning Out is setting fire inside a control line to consume fuel between the fire edge and the control line strengthening and straightening them by eliminating fuel between the fire edge and the control line; considered direct attack [11]. A Single Resource Boss (CRWB, ENGB, etc.) has authority to initiate burnouts with Division Supervisor approval, usually an on-going part of line construction. Backfiring is a fire set along the inner edge of a fireline to consume the fuel in the path of a fire or to change the fire’s direction, approved by the Incident Commander (IC) or the Operations Section Chief (OPS) and put into effect at the Division level [11]. Adhering to basic wildland firefighting rules and guidelines with informing adjoining forces as critical [11]. Some groups justly question whether “extensive backburning” (slang for firing operations) is “a cause or consequence” of large wildfires posting greater WFs / FFs risks than usually sensed. “It is easy to understand … why suppression firing may be the dominant form of fire use today” [12].

Wildland Firing Operations and Friendly Fire

The notion of Friendly Fire, (aka fratricide or amicicide) is atypical, presented here from a unique wildland fire perspective. Consider now a short account of the phrase based in historic military passages and quotes to propose as an analog for wildland fire incidents. According to retired Army Colonel turned academic, Scott Snook extensively researched a friendly fire incident in Iraq when two U.S. Air Force fighters by mistake shot down two Army Blackhawk helicopters [13]. "Friendly fire-casualties unintentionally inflicted on one's own forces-is not a new problem in the history of warfare. However, until quite recently, little explicit attention has been paid to studying its causes and possible solutions” (footnote omitted) with certain cases frequently revealing that the fratricide was the final link in a chain of mistakes [13]. Retired Army Lt. Colonel Charles Shrader refers to it as “amicicide.” He wrote "… in the 'fog of war' friendly fire casualties are inevitable ... 'fog of war' is an oft-mentioned, if imperfectly understood, ...” [14]. With few sources, researchers are left with scattered, cryptic, notes found in general operational histories or official combat records [14]. The authors can duly relate to the notion of few sources.

Rare wildland "friendly fire" incidents are most often fatal as documented and recounted by many experienced WFs and human factors researchers that firmly believe that the Mann Gulch (MT-1949), Loop (CA-1966), Battlement Creek (CO-1976), Mackenzie (AZ-1994), Cedar (CA- 2003), and Yarnell Hill Fires (AZ-2013) were the result of likely "friendly fire" [5, 15]. These are discussed in some detail on InvestigativeMEDIA (IM) [15] and incompletely recorded (read “official” records) in the Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center Incident Reviews. Likewise, the WF brother of a deceased GMHS that was unsuccessful getting a GMHS position, acknowledged and agreed that his brother had died "from fratricide" on June 30, 2013. He conceded that to cope with losing his brother, he accepted they were adults with many options that day. Contrary to the SAIT-SAIR, groupthink poor choices caught up with them, resulting in the fatal outcomes [2, 3].

Consider the AZ State Forestry (ASF) video (6-30-13), YH Fire with a USFS Type 3 Engine and two WFs with torches, steadily firing off one of the spur roads in the Peeples Valley area [15] on the fringes of the Sesame Street and Shrine Corridor area verifies that Engine Crews decided to perform fairly assertive burnouts despite the intense conditions. This Engine correctly follows behind the lighters, compared to the naive Municipal FFs firing operation with the Engine in front of the lighters [4]. The relevant video segment is from 00:00 to 01:25. Later segments reveal separate and distinct smoke columns, indicative of a firing operation, from about the 1:30 to 4:17 timeline with some notable, aggressive backdrop fire behavior, including some clear, relevant radio transmissions throughout the video

( ) [16]. The authors contend that these videos are foundational to undergirding the Corridor firing operation prospect.

Sesame Street / Shrine Road Corridor Area Likely Firing Operations Evidence

The Sesame Street to Shrine Corridor area likely firing operation is sustained by at best seven (7) suggestive proofs: (1) three SAIT-SAIR excerpts [1]; (2) photos that the YHFR site posted, based on separate and distinct smoke columns [2, 3, 5]; (3) over twenty WFs, FFs, citizens saw firing operation videos in several places [3-5]; (4) mentions of burnt fusees and "accelerants" [3-5]; (5) InvestigativeMEDIA posts about a “back burn” [5, 15]; (6) the ASF / IFE video noted above; and (7) WF hearsay evidence regarding at least three separate Corridor firing operations [4, 15].


IMG_IMG 1898.jpeg (1624) JT SCWFD



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(yarnell-mccord 009.jpg)

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(Ball IMG_1884 or 1884a with Google Earth overlay)

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Fig. 1. June 30, 2013, 1624 (4:24 PM) (L); 1629 (4:29 PM) (CL); 1631 (4:31 PM) (CR); 1649 (4:49 PM) (R). Aggressive fire behavior; separate & distinct smoke columns in the Sesame Street and Shrine Corridor. Source: Sun City FD, Lauber, News12, Tham; WTKTT, Google Earth [17]

Dozer line and Sesame Street and Shrine Corridor excerpts from the SAIT-SAIR: [1, 4] “[BRHS] … clear out the two-track road … [for access] and … possible backfire … (an old fuel break) between Sesame Street and Shrine Road. … dozer to open the line. [BRHS] move their crew carriers toward the Shrine of St. Joseph (the Shrine) and a youth camp area around 1500 and then start preparing for burnout along the dozer line.“ (pp. 18, 21) "... SPGS1 … [asks] if they still have the option to burn out from the dozer line. [BRHS] tells him no. … DIVS A, … agrees and says … the fire is almost as far as the [GMHS] vehicles. … DIVS A says, “… we’re going to make our way to our escape route.” (p. 24) “A task force is … expecting … [the] need to burn off this line … indirect line connects to the dozer line between Shrine Road and Sesame Street. (p. 25) (emphasis added) Indeed, a burnout was planned for.

Corridor Firing Operation Evidence and Arizona Rule 803. Exceptions to the Rule Against Hearsay - Regardless Whether the Declarant is Available. Article VIII

Consider now the existence of a Sesame Street and Shrine Corridor firing operation, using legal literature to establish standing, for legal credibility, while utilizing the Arizona Rule 803 [18] to qualify statements for "particular probative value" (evidence useful to prove something in a trial).

‘A firsthand account is based on one’s personal experience; a secondhand account is based on an one's research, rather than personal experience, generally considered to be circumstantial. Hearsay is a statement made in court by someone other than a party to prove the truth of matter.’

According to the Freedom School: Objections to Evidence and Testimony - Federal Rules of Civil Procedure research paper, ‘Evaluating factual matter, an expert is allowed to rely on anything normally relied upon by other experts in his field, anything that has gained "general acceptance" in arriving at opinions. The material upon which expert opinion is based need not be admissible; it may be hearsay.’ (emphasis added)

According to Poulin, (2011), a Pepperdine law student, accepting a veteran WF as an "expert witness," granting credibility is permissible. Tight groups, (i.e. WFs), at times share unreliable beliefs. One should consider whether the WF provider’s experience base is amply extensive to support what is presented as bona fide, albeit second- or third-hand, plus expert opinion. Deferring to the AZ Rule 803, discounting opinion(s) lacking ample basis ensuring reliable inferences fairly drawn from experience are presented to you.

This component of the probable firing operation - planned and discussed - was likely fired off by a mixture of Federal, State, and local Municipal Fire personnel according to numerous sources listed in the reference section. It is a widely held belief among WFs / FFs, explicitly those involved in the Sesame Street and Shrine Corridor area likely firing operation, that the increased outflow winds and resultant fire behavior created was akin to an exponentially violent fire storm that overtook the GMHS as they hiked downhill into the lit fire surging uphill toward them, with no lookout. See Fig. 1 & Fig, 3 in ref [4].

The context to follow is a mixture of 'first-person' - 'second hand' - 'third-person' perspective anecdotes and comments of three separate firing operations: (1) a training academy where the students are engaged in a group discussion about fire behavior on the June 30, 2013, YH Fire, and eventually human factors; (2) a separate (circa 1432) firing operation in a spur road area by a Single Resource Agency Type 3 Engine; (3), a municipal PFD FF perspective at the BSR; and (4) a 25-year veteran WF, using the avatar "Downhillndirect (DND), that spoke with each of these individuals about their respective likely firing operations details. He posts on the InvestigativeMEDIA blog.

Consider now the following quotes and paraphrases from DND’s proximate dialogue notes with the respective likely Sesame Street and Shrine Corridor firing operations personnel follow. Excerpts from military literature on the historic notion of "friendly fire" are assessed and then applied as an analog to the wildland fire equivalent. The wildland "friendly fire" incidents discussed here originate mostly from veteran WFs and FFs anecdotes and experiences, WLF LLC case files, and from several InvestigativeMEDIA website posts on this vital, contentious issue.

According to DND posts on IM, the training academy FF student (SFF) spoke of "firing out multiple spur roads while trying to keep it square so it wouldn't jump the main road. I asked several times if the area was clear of FFs and civilians before they did any firing.’ A supervisor told them: "Sometimes we do things we have to, not because we want to." He thought the Firing Boss was 'part of the IMT ... like a Structure Protection Specialist’ … ‘the closer we got to the Sesame Street and Shrine area … a feeling of absolute panic as we pulled out.’ …‘we could hear everything those guys were saying. Marsh said that the [BSR] isn’t that far from where he thought the guys are now … we knew Marsh went down that ridge a few times before [the guys deployed].

We were part of a firing operation off one of the spur roads .. close to where everybody piled out [Sesame Street to Shrine Road near Miner Rd] about twenty (20) minutes before hearing all the ruckus on the radio about the GMHS, Air Attack, yelling …we had the Engine out in front. No spots, absolute miracle because the wind was howling parallel with the road they were on and every now and then gust over the road and throw embers, but no spots. The Engine was going fast; we had a hard time keeping up with it. Engines out in front of a firing operation clearly suggests inexperience.

The SFF noted: the 'urgency and fear in the eyes of everyone was unnatural. It was burning in so fast … it was ripping right in [17]. We tied into a corner, a bunch of vehicles came out including the BRHS and the GMHS buggies … [he started crying again]. … we felt much better lighting to the corner of this road intersection, because … we figured they [GMHS] were out of the area.’ ... ‘The fire was gone, half mile or mile away from us within 5-10 minutes of firing, uphill and gone. We all staged in our rigs listening to the TAC channels and then we heard the GMHS A/G chaos. The [Engine] Crew, including our Captain, felt like we couldn’t breathe. He said he felt like he was going to have a panic attack; then Captain said: “we just f**king killed people.” The SFF stated they were later spoken to by several higher ranking WF / FF Supervisors in Yarnell telling them that 'everything was gonna be alright' and 'you saved a lot of structures ...'.

Indeed, there is unsettled evidence of a Sesame Street and Shrine Fuel / Fire Break Corridor firing operation. Consider the legal literature on standing for legal credibility utilizing the Arizona Rule 803. Exceptions to the Rule Against Hearsay to qualify WF DND’s accounts as having "particular probative value" (evidence sufficiently useful to prove something important in trial). Instructors were sternly directed on ‘YH Fire discussions to get preapproved USFS Regional and Washington Office lesson plans’ and ‘no disrespecting the dead and no YH Fire talk here’.

Human Factors - Errors - Failures - Mindfulness

Consider some novel Human Failure values unexplored / unrecorded by investigators of how and why WFs and FFs believed their actions as acceptable risks along their drift into failure.

Tunnel Vision and Auditory Exclusion Vulnerabilities and Perils

Posted elsewhere on this website, John Hopkins University researchers found, ‘By narrowing attention, … attention shifts from vision to audition caused increased activity in auditory cortex and decreased activity in visual cortex and vice versa, reflecting the effects of attention on sensory representations. The experiment was designed to create tunnel vision, but a completely unexpected event occurred. While vision was being tunneled, performance of the audible control center decreased’. The researchers further found that tunneled vision leads to diminished hearing. Tunneled hearing led to diminished vision. The researchers concluded that a person intently listening to audible cues - like a radio or cell phone - could have diminished visual performance. In some cases, when the stress is severe enough, the hearing receptors in the brain may shut off completely, referred to as auditory exclusion, that can directly restrict wildland firefighting situational awareness.

Surely, the GMHS would ‘see’ the noticeable changing weather and increased fire behavior, but their stressed brains maybe sabotaged or delayed their threat perception and reaction away from those focus areas . Several cell phone and radio conversations likely diverted considering emerging hazards, and their failure to reassess priorities resulted in a drift into failure.

Destructive Goal Pursuit Relevance from Mountaineering to Wildland Firefighting

As per Kayes, destructive goal pursuit, [6] the single basic error attributed to all catastrophes, warrants noting three counterintuitive points: (1) the limits of goals and their pursuits, (2) the need for less attention on goals and more on group dynamics, and (3) problems brought about by leadership. Organizations driven by goal attainment are inclined to continue in that same direction rather than adjust course, even when that course of action leads to failure. And when new and contradictory information continues to suggest that the goal cannot be safely attained, inspired action directed toward their goal - not to potential environmental changes - (i.e. adverse fire weather and increased fire behavior), leaders choose to ignore those. The GMHS leadership failed to appreciate potential contributions from their concerned WFs, and so as a group they (un)willingly accepted their leaders’ decision(s) to abandon their S/Z in pursuit of the BSR goal. Stressed and distracted, how and why did the GMHS succumb to the folly to vacate their S/Z when they did at the worst possible time?

Organizational Culture

Municipal Fire Department (Hybrid) Attitudes, Influxes, and Influences

The Prescott Way. Just one of those things that happened, an accident. Fire Order #10 (Fight fire aggressively having provided for safety first) is hillbilly. We’re smarter. We’re a lot smarter’. These are strong markers of the conflicting causal factors of confusion and ambiguity; latent human failures on any wildfire, mainly those with threatened structures like the YHF. These will continue unless WFs truly learncomplete” lessons from these lethal recurring tragedies. Demanding and lobbying to include the “adjoining forces” into Watch Out #7 should lessen friendly fire incidents.


The authors concede to scarce evidence of the Sesame Street and Shrine Corridor area likely firing operation due, largely, to fears of exposing the truth. In the coming years, the authors will justly seek, examine, and release scores of current and future likely firing operation records. One enduring inquiry remains - when will those WFs, FFs, and citizens possessing anecdotes, photos, videos, do what’s right and courageously come forward?

Acknowledgements. Dr. Ted Putnam; the two YH Fire Hikers; former USDA USFS Fire Director Mike Williams; Woodsman; Gary Olson; WantsToKnowTheTruth; Norb Szcurek; Downhillndirect; those who lost family, friends, and loved ones; and those 19 young men that inspire our writing for healing and complete lessons learned through an ongoing daily basis.


1. Yarnell Hill Fire Serious Accident Investigation Team (SAIT): Yarnell Hill Fire Serious Accident Investigation Report (SAIR) 122 pp. (2013)

2. Schoeffler, F.J. and Honda, L.: Epic Human Failure on June 30, 2013. Intl. Conference on Applied Human Factors and Ergonomics (AHFE) Advances in Human Error, Reliability, Resilience, and Performance (HERRP) (2017)

3. ----: It Could Not Be Seen Because It Could Not Be Believed on June 30, 2013. AHFE (2018)

4. ----, and Collura, J.A.: Formerly Unrevealed Public Records Should Change the Account of What Occurred on June 30, 2013. AHFE, HERRP (2019)

5. Yarnell Hill Fire Revelations (YHFR) website, (2019)

6. Kayes, D.C.: Destructive Goal Pursuit. Mt. Everest Disaster. Palgrave MacMillan, NY (2006)

7. Shomstein, S., Yantis, S.: Control of Attention Shifts between Vision and Audition in Human Cortex. Journal of Neuroscience, 24. pp. 10702–1070 (2004)

8. Williams, J.: Next Steps in Wildland Fire Mgmt.; Fire Mgmt. Today, 62. pp. 31-35 (2002)

9. Natl. Wildfire Coordinating Group (NWCG) 6-Minutes for Safety. Escape Routes 2 (2019)

10. Jolly, M., Butler, B., Page, W., Freeborn, P.: An Assessment of Research Needs Related to Wildland Firefighter Safety. JFSP #18-S-011. (2019)

11. NWCG: Firing Operations NFES courses. S-234 Ignition Ops and S-219 Firing Ops (2014)

12. Ingalsbee, T.: Managing Large Wildfires by Design. FUSEE. Eugene, OR (2014)

13. Snook, S.A.: Friendly Fire - Princeton Univ. Press (2000)

14. Shrader, C.: Amicide: The Problem of Friendly Fire in War. J. Army War College, 23. (2005)

15. Dougherty, J.: InvestigativeMEDIA blog. Relevant posts - Chapters VI to XXX (2013-20) (Use “Ctrl F” w/ key words to search)

16. The Institution of Fire Engineers (IFE) - YH Fire - Storyful News video - (11-10-14) YH Fire (2013) 1036 AM GMHS firing op cross-fade video WTKTT (2019)

17. Thompson, J.: June 30, 2013, 1624 (4:24 PM); Lauber, B.: 1629 (4:29 PM); ABC News 12 photo(s) 1629; Tham, R. (RiP) 1649 (4:49 PM), also included in reference [4] at Figure 3. (2013)

18. Westlaw: AZ Rules of Evidence, Art. VII, Rule 803. Exceptions to the Rule Against Hearsay - Regardless of Whether the Declarant is Available as a Witness. Arizona Court Rules (2015)

19. Freedom School: Objections to Evidence and Testimony - Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (Accessed January 2020)

20. Poulin, A.B.: Experience-Based Opinion Testimony. Pepperdine Law Review, 39 (2011)


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