An estimated 250 homes are feared destroyed by the ongoing fire that is currently covering more than 2,000 acres, Arizona State Forestry Division spokesman Mike Reichling stated.
State forestry is predicting fire will continue to grow quickly today, as erratic winds and heat fuel the blaze, AZ Central reported, nothing that the area has not had a fire in 40 years.
Wickenburg Community Hospital is treating at least eight firefighters who were among 22 injured in the line of duty.
One of the surviving firefighters reportedly sustained burns to 75 percent of his body.
“It has been confirmed that 19 wildland firefighters have lost their lives on the Yarnell Hill fire Arizona,” the US Wildland Fire Aviation said. Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett declined to provide the name of the firefighters.
Reichling said the fire is quickly reaching “Type 1” status, which the most critical level, and is currently burning with zero containment.
It is estimated that two hundred firefighters are now battling the flames. Federal authorities are expected to arrive with additional force to help tackle the disaster. Reichling expects manpower to reach about 400 people and involve numerous water carrying aircrafts.
About 250 firefighters, including two Type 2 crews, three Type 1 crews, and four engines, were on the scene, Reichling confirmed. Three Type 1 crews, seven helicopters, two air tankers, four single engine air tankers, and multiple engines and air tankers were ordered.
Earlier Sunday, 50 homes in the Buckhorn, Model Creek and Double A Bar Ranch areas some 85 miles from Phoenix were ordered to evacuate. By afternoon the evacuation order included residents in the Peeples Valley area and in the town of Yarnell.
The Red Cross has opened a shelter at Yavapai College in Prescott, the sheriff’s office said.
The blaze erupted first on Friday but rapidly spread on Sunday as the area was hit by unfavorable weather conditions including high temperatures, low humidity and windy conditions.
Currently, firefighters are battling other blazes in Arizona including the Doce Fire in Prescott, which is more than 30 miles (48km) northeast of Yarnell. Doce Fire was 96 percent contained on Sunday and will cost authorities around US$6.7 million.
One of the largest fires in Arizona happened in 2002 when the blaze spread to 468 acres destroying almost 430 structures.
The previous most deadly wildland fire involving firefighters was a 1994 Storm King Fire near Glenwood Springs, Colorado that killed 14 firefighters.