- 07.01.13 10:51 AM EDT
It's being the called "the perfect storm" of wildfires: 19 members of an elite 20-man squad of firefighters died Sunday when a sudden reverse in wind conditions left them trapped. The twentieth member of the team is hospitalized, the most casualties among firefighters fighting a wildfire since 1933.
"It had to be a perfect storm in order for this to happen. Their situational awareness and their training was at such a high level that it's unimaginable that this has even happened," Prescott Fire Department spokesman Wade Ward said this morning to ABC.
The crew of elite firefighters was working to protect the town of Yarnell, near Prescott, Arizona, where around 200 homes have already been destroyed. The 2,000 acre Yarnell Hill fire was started by lightning, and exacerbated by tinder-dry conditions, record heat, and high wind.