Nineteen firefighters were killed Sunday while battling a wildfire in Yarnell Hill, Arizona, northwest of Phoenix. The fire, believed to be sparked by lightning, had been raging since Friday and forced residents to evacuate their homes as it spread to 1,000 acres.
State forestry official Art Morrison said the firefighters were members of a “hotshot” crew, tasked with digging a fire line and creating an escape route.
“In normal circumstances, when you’re digging fire line, you make sure you have a good escape route, and you have a safety zone set up,” Morrison said. “Evidently, their safety zone wasn’t big enough, and the fire just overtook them.”
The extreme heat across the Southwest also contributed to the death of an elderly Las Vegas man Saturday, the Las Vegas Sun reports. Temperatures across the region crept toward record-setting highs over the weekend—Death Valley reached 126 F Sunday, eight degrees shy of the area’s 134-degree record set in 1913.