A flagpole marks the site where 19 Granite Mountain Hotshots were killed while fighting the Yarnell Hill Fire. The memorial is visible from U.S. Highway 89, which reopened Wednesday. (Source: CBS 5 News)
Some Yarnell residents were able to return to the homes Monday morning. (Source: CBS 5 News)
Others weren't so fortunate. (Source: CBS 5 News)
(Source: CBS 5 News)
People gather alongside a rural highway to pay their respectsSunday . (Source: CBS 5 News)
U.S. Highway 89 was reopened to all traffic Wednesday morning and motorists can now see a memorial to 19 fallen firefighters from the road, according to the Arizona Department of Transportation.
All checkpoints established by the Yavapai County Sheriff's Office were lifted at 6 a.m. and traffic began flowing again on U.S. 89 through Yarnell.
Motorists can see a flagpole memorial to the 19 firefighters killed in the Yarnell Hill Fire on June 30.
A new overlook on U.S. 89 allows drivers to stop and see the flagpole marking the site where the 19 Granite Mountain Hotshots were overtaken by the flames.
Family members and Hotshot crews in the area for Tuesday's memorial to the firefighters were shuttled to the overlook on Tuesday.
The highway had been closed since June 30. The lightning-caused fire was started on June 28.
Residents of Yarnell began returning to their homes about 9 a.m. Monday.
Some residents returned to houses still intact, while others suffered the anguish of seeing where their homes were before being consumed by the Yarnell Hill Fire that began with a lightning strike June 28.
As a 125-mile procession bringing the bodies of 19 Hotshots reached Prescott on Sunday afternoon, residents were told they would be allowed to return Monday.
On Sunday, the public paid its respects to the Granite Mountain Hotshots crew who lost their lives in the explosive Yarnell Hill Fire one week ago.
Nineteen hearses left from the Maricopa County Medical Examiner's Office in Phoenix. As the motorcycle-led escort traveled through Phoenix and into the suburbs, first responders and residents lined the streets holding flags and flowers and saluted.
Residents began gathering early at the Wesley Bolin Memorial Plaza at 1700 W. Washington St. Sunday morning for the ceremonial transport, where they viewed the passing vehicles with the fallen heroes.
Under escort by the Joint Arizona Honor Guard, the fallen firefighters were transported by 19 hearses, each accompanied by motorcycle escorts from various agencies. Within each hearse, an Honor Guard member accompanied each fallen firefighter.
Flags of the U.S., the state of Arizona and local fire departments lined the path to the vehicles. Honor Guards flanked the path to the vehicles holding ceremonial axes.
Ladder trucks held a flag above the path. An Honor Watch will be maintained continuously so that the fallen firefighters will never be left alone until they are delivered to their families.
Samantha Kinkade asked everyone who planned on lining the streets to show their respect by bringing purple balloons to release into the sky as the vehicles pass. Purple represents fallen firefighters.
"Coming from a family of firefighters and a wife to one this time has been very difficult, I can't even imagine what the families are going through, but to do this little act of kindness might put a much needed smile on some of those family members as they take the heroes to their final resting spot," Kinkade said.
More than 300 firefighters continued to work near Yarnell as the wildfire continues creeping, smoldering and torching single trees. Utility companies are in the area of Yarnell to rebuild.
The evacuation for parts of Peeples Valley was lifted for residents July 4. Hundreds have remained separated from their homes and many still don't know what damage they will find when they are allowed back into Yarnell on Monday. At least 114 homes and other structures were lost.
Forest officials say the lightning-caused wildfire is 90 percent contained, as of Saturday night. It has burned roughly 8,377 acres. Earlier this week, fire officials estimated full containment would happen by July 15. As of Wednesday night, they are estimating containment by July 12.
On Tuesday, Vice President Joe Biden and thousands of family, friends and firefighters gathered at Tim's Toyota Center in Prescott Valley to memorialize the 19 lives in the Yarnell Hill Fire. The service was exclusively for family, friends and firefighters, but organizers expected thousands of residents to pack the area around the arena.
The Maricopa County medical examiner released the initial results of the 19 fallen firefighters' autopsies on Thursday, showing all of the men died from burns and inhalation problems.
The firefighters were deployed to what was thought to be a manageable lightning-caused forest fire, but violent winds turned the fire.
Fire investigators are trying to learn what circumstances led to the deaths of the Prescott Granite Mountain Hotshot team, said Jim Paxon, a founding member of the Arizona Wildfire Academy, and who served on the Southwest Interagency Incident Management Team during the Rodeo-Chediski Fire in 2002.
"These investigators, with 30 plus years of experience, are scientists," Paxon told CBS 5 News on Tuesday morning. "They will try to discern what happened, and how can we prevent it in the future."
Paxon said the investigators will look at communication, command structure and the plans used to fight the fire. They "will try to reconstruct the fire as it blew up and ran over the Granite Mountain crew," he said.
On Friday, Sen. John McCain said the Yarnell Hill Fire shows how important it is to allow private companies to clear forests and devote more resources to firefighting efforts.
In a joint news conference with fellow Arizona Republican Sen. Jeff Flake in Prescott, McCain criticized a decrease in the availability of large air tankers and federal automatic budget cuts.
McCain says the cuts will negatively affect the Department of Interior and its wildland firefighting budget.
Yavapai College is creating a scholarship fund for the children and spouses of the 19 firefighters who died.
Officials at the Prescott school say some of the Granite Mountain Hotshots team members were Yavapai College students and many were in its fire science program.
The Granite Mountain Hotshots Scholarship Fund will provide two-year scholarships for the community college education needs of the children and spouses of the fallen firefighters.
Copyright 2013 CBS 5 (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.
UPDATEYarnell Hill Fire: U.S. 89 reopens; memorial visible from overlookMore>>
Thursday, July 24 2014 4:23 PM EDT2014-07-24 20:23:25 GMT
The Yavapai County Medical Examiner has confirmed the identities of four people who died after a single-engine plane crashed in rough terrain northwest of Sedona on Sunday.More >
The victims were the pilot, Jonathan McGeary, 22, of Flagstaff; Levi Wallace, 23, of Prescott; Johanna Naber, 18, of Shellbrook, Saskatchewan Canada; and Sabrina Giebelen, 19, of Krefeld, Germany.More >
Tuesday, July 15 2014 1:59 PM EDT2014-07-15 17:59:16 GMT
Use of cables and helicopters to drag and lift logs from forest slopes are among thinning alternatives under consideration to protect Flagstaff from wildfire and its watershed from flooding.The ArizonaMore >
Use of cables and helicopters to drag and lift logs from forest slopes are among thinning alternatives under consideration to protect Flagstaff from wildfire and its watershed from flooding.More >
Tuesday, July 8 2014 1:22 PM EDT2014-07-08 17:22:26 GMT
President Barack Obama is asking Congress for $615 million to help fight wildfires as the summer season is already prompting blazes across western states.The White House said Obama will submit the requestMore >
President Barack Obama is asking Congress for $615 million to help fight wildfires as the summer season is already prompting blazes across western states. More >
Friday, June 27 2014 12:05 PM EDT2014-06-27 16:05:07 GMT
Here's a look at the wildfires that have flared up and burned acreage in Arizona this wildfire season, according to the Arizona Interagency Wildfire Prevention. Odonnell Fire - April 21 Brown Fire -More >
Here's a look at the wildfires that have flared up and burned acreage in Arizona this wildfire season, according to the Arizona Interagency Wildfire Prevention.More >
Wednesday, June 25 2014 1:03 PM EDT2014-06-25 17:03:16 GMT
Firefighters have reopened all roads around a wildfire that has scorched nearly 23 square miles of terrain on the Navajo Nation just east of the Arizona-New Mexico border.Navajo Nation officials say roadwaysMore >
Firefighters have reopened all roads around a wildfire that has scorched nearly 23 square miles of terrain on the Navajo Nation just east of the Arizona-New Mexico border.More >
They were born just two weeks apart. A 10-week-old baby and 8-week-old pit bull have a fascinating relationship. They absolutely adore each other! Louisiana native Brandi Hodges, 25, has posted photosMore >
A 10-week-old baby and 8-week-old Pitbull have a fascinating relationship. They absolutely adore each other!More >
Monday, July 28 2014 2:08 PM EDT2014-07-28 18:08:17 GMT
NWS: Macroburst hit north Phoenix with 100 mph winds
A macroburst with winds in excess of 100 mph hit north Phoenix Saturday night, snapping power poles, toppling trees and cutting power to 33,000 utility customers, the National Weather Service said.More >
Intense macrobursts can cause tornado-force damage of up to F3 intensity, the National Weather Service said after it confirmed the event. The Paradise Valley Hospital sustained rooftop damage.More >
Monday, July 28 2014 1:54 AM EDT2014-07-28 05:54:27 GMT
Authorities now say 14 people - including a 15-year-old - have been struck by lightning during rare summer thunderstorms that have swept through Southern California, injuring two critically.More >
A 20-year-old man died Sunday after lightning struck or rattled 13 people at a popular Los Angeles beach and a golfer on Catalina Island during summer thunderstorms that swept through Southern California, authorities said.More >