Robert E. Caldwell

The Granite Mountain Hotshots were a unit of the Prescott Fire Department. The Granite Mountain Hotshots were assigned to the Yarnell Hill Fire in central Arizona.

From the Serious Accident Investigation Report, released September 23, 2013:

Late afternoon on June 28, the Yarnell Hill Fire started high on a ridge west of Yarnell, Arizona when lightning ignited multiple fires. The fire, which was under the jurisdiction of the Arizona State Forestry Division, started in a boulder field in steep terrain with no vehicle access; it was about one-half acre in size. Responders saw minimal fire activity or spread potential, and they had several safety concerns with putting firefighters on the hill overnight. In consideration of these and other factors, the Incident Commander prepared for full suppression on the following morning.

On June 29, resources held the fire in check until around 1600, when winds increased and the fire spotted outside containment lines. That evening, the Type 4 Incident Commander ordered a Type 2 Incident Management Team (IMT) and additional resources for the next morning. The fire grew throughout the night, to an estimated 300 to 500 acres by morning.

Early on June 30, members of the Type 2 IMT began arriving. In a briefing at 0700, the incoming Granite Mountain IHC Superintendent accepted the role of Division Alpha Supervisor. His assignment was to establish an anchor point at the heel of the fire with the Granite Mountain IHC. The Type 2 IMT assumed command, an action formally announced by radio at 1022.

For most of the day, the fire spread to the northeast, threatening structures in Model Creek and Peeples Valley. Around 1550, the wind shifted and the fire started pushing aggressively to the southeast, toward Yarnell. Fire resources shifted to resident evacuation and structure protection in town.

Only the Granite Mountain IHC remained out on the ridge, on the southwest perimeter of the fire. Personnel who communicated with the Granite Mountain IHC knew the crew was in the black at that time and assumed they would stay there. No one realized that the crew left the black and headed southeast, sometime after 1604. At 1630, thunderstorm outflows reached the southern perimeter of the fire. Winds increased substantially; the fire turned south and overran the Granite Mountain IHC at about 1642.

A number of reports on this incident are available at the Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center website - - use the search feature to find the Yarnell Hill Fire.

Incident Location: West of Yarnell, AZ (USNG: 12S UC 362 880)

Department Information

Prescott Fire Department
1700 Iron Springs RD
USNG: 12S UD 6245 2646
Prescott, Arizona 86305

Chief: Dan Fraijo

Robert E. Caldwell was honored on the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial in Emmitsburg, Maryland and was included in the USFA’s annual report Firefighter Fatalities in the United States.
Age: 23 
Rank: Squad Boss 
Classification: Wildland Full-Time 
Incident date: Jun 30, 2013 17:55
Date of death: Jun 30, 2013 
Cause of death: Caught or Trapped 
Nature of death: Burns 
Activity type: Advance Hose Lines/Fire Attack (includes Wildland) 
Emergency duty: Yes
Duty type: On-Scene Fire 
Fixed property use: Outdoor Property