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(CNN) — They were part of an elite squad who confronted wildfires up close, setting up barriers to stop their destructive spread.
But the inferno blazing across central Arizona proved too much.
The 19 firefighters were killed Sunday while fighting the Yarnell Hill fire, northwest of Phoenix. 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.
“Our entire crew was lost,” Prescott Fire Chief Dan Fraijo told reporters Sunday night. “We just lost 19 of some of the finest people you’ll ever meet. Right now, we’re in crisis.”
Authorities believe lightning sparked the Yarnell Hill fire on Friday. By Sunday night, it had scorched more than 6,000 acres and destroyed more than 100 structures, incident commander Mike Reichling said.