The 19 firefighters killed over the weekend in an Arizona blaze died of burns and inhalation problems, according to initial findings released Thursday.
Cari Gerchick, a spokeswoman for the Maricopa County Medical Examiner’s Office in Phoenix, said the Hotshots died from burns, carbon monoxide poisoning or oxygen deprivation, or a combination of the factors.
The Prescott-based Hotshots’ bodies will be taken back to the hilltop community in a 75-mile procession from Phoenix on Sunday. Each firefighter will be in an individual hearse, accompanied by motorcycle escorts, honor guard members and American flags.
A memorial service planned for Tuesday is expected to draw thousands of mourners, including the families of the firefighters.
It was the nation’s biggest loss of firefighters since 9/11.
Nearly 600 firefighters continue to fight the blaze, which was 45 percent contained Thursday morning. The fire has destroyed more than 100 homes and burned about 13 square miles. Yarnell remained evacuated Thursday, but authorities hope to allow residents back in by Saturday.
Meanwhile on Thursday, Prescott officials worked to retool the city’s traditional over-the-top Independence Day celebration in the wake of the tragedy.
They still planned to shoot off fireworks, despite tinder-dry conditions as the community of 40,000 tries to mourn its dead without compromising its history. The theme of the past few days has been “celebration, not grief.”
Fire officials said they would be able to deploy the pyrotechnics safely.