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Arizona Wildfire Kills 19 Firefighters

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A wildfire that broke out in Yarnell, Arizona, a town 80 miles northwest of Phoenix, has destroyed thousands of acres—and killed 19 firefighters. Most were members of an elite firefighting unit, Granite Mountain Hotshots of Prescott, and Prescott Fire Chief Dan Fraijo said, "Our entire crew was lost... We are devastated. We just lost 19 of the finest people you will ever meet. We’re going through a terrible crisis right now.”

It's believed the fire was started by lightning on Friday night. Yarnell was evacuated, as were neighboring areas. By last night, 6,000 acres were decimated and some fires are still active now.According to CNN, "It was the deadliest day for firefighters since the 9/11 attacks. And it is the deadliest wildland fire since 1933, according to a list from the U.S. National Wildfire Coordinating Group. Twenty-five firefighters died when a blaze burned in light chaparral near Griffith Park, California."

Arizona Governor Jan Brewer said, "This is as dark a day as I can remember, with Arizona suffering the truly unimaginable loss of 19 wildland firefighters. It may be days or longer before an investigation reveals how this tragedy occurred, but the essence we already know in our hearts: fighting fires is dangerous work. The risk is well-known to the brave men and women who don their gear and do battle against forest and flame. When a tragedy like this strikes, all we can do is offer our eternal gratitude to the fallen, and prayers for the families and friends left behind. God bless them all."

President Obama also issued a statement: "Yesterday, 19 firefighters were killed in the line of duty while fighting a wildfire outside Yarnell, Ariz. They were heroes — highly skilled professionals who, like so many across our country do every day, selflessly put themselves in harm’s way to protect the lives and property of fellow citizens they would never meet. Michelle and I join all Americans in sending our thoughts and prayers to the families of these brave firefighters and all whose lives have been upended by this terrible tragedy."

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The Arizona Republic reports, "Juliann Ashcraft said she found out her firefighter husband, Andrew, was among the dead by watching the news with her four children. 'They died heroes,' she said, crying and wiping tears away from her eyes. 'And we'll miss them. We love them.'"

UPDATE, 9:30 A.M.: City News Service reports that one of the firefighters killed was the son of a Los Angeles County Fire Department captain. Kevin Woyjeck, 21, was the son of county fire Capt. Joe Woyjeck.