Forestry Division issues apology for “inappropriate” comments on Yarnell Fire fallen

GraniteThe Arizona State Forestry Division (AZSF) is apologizing for comments made by Deputy State Forester Jerry Payne about the decisions made by the leader of the fallen Granite Mountain hotshot crew, which they called inappropriate.

In a statement released Tuesday, the AZSF said they had received numerous inquiries in reference to “personal unauthorized opinions” Payne made regarding the Yarnell Hill Fire fatalities. Payne said that the hotshot leader may not have followed some standard firefighting guidelines. He said that such deviations can happen in special circumstances, but said the leader may have taken a “calculated risk.”

State Forester Scott Hunt says he wants to make it clear that State Forestry has taken no position on the causes of the fatalities and awaits the results of the two independent investigations that are currently being conducted by the Serious Accident Investigation Team and Arizona Department of Occupational Safety and Health.

According to the State Forestry Division, “Mr. Payne’s inappropriate expression of opinion as fact and unfounded speculation that prejudges the ultimate conclusion of the investigation. The investigation reports are expected to be released in the coming months.”