Arizona panel OKs $559,000 fine for safety lapses in Yarnell Hill fire
TUCSON - The Arizona State Forestry Division could face $559,000 in fines after a state safety commission found fire officials had committed two serious workplace violations during the Yarnell Hill fire that killed 19 firefighters in June.
Forestry officials managing the blaze prioritized protection of “non-defensible” structures and pastureland over firefighter safety, officials wrote in a report released Wednesday by the Arizona Division of Occupational Safety and Health, known as ADOSH.
“On that day the fire burned over 8,000 acres of wildland, over 114 structures, and resulted in multiple instances of firefighters being unnecessarily and unreasonably exposed to the deadly hazards of wildland firefighting,” the report says.
The Industrial Commission of Arizona is meeting to discuss whether to accept, modify or reject the findings.
[Updated, 3:01 p.m. PST, Dec. 4: The commission approved the fine against the forestry division, which has 15 days to appeal the decision.]
Wednesday afternoon, Marshall Krotenberg, the safety compliance supervisor for ADOSH, outlined myriad violations for commissioners.
For example, forestry officials failed to include safety officers in crucial coordination meetings because of unexplained delays, he said.
“Apparently the ball got dropped,” Krotenberg told the commission. The safety officers would have “absolutely made a difference,” he said.
The safety agency’s report is a departure from a separate state report released in September that found no evidence of recklessness or negligence in the Yarnell Hill wildfire.
The earlier report, produced by a team of local, state and federal investigators convened from around the country, “found no indication of negligence, reckless actions, or violations of policy or protocol,” but did note some problems with radio communication.
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