July 1, 2013

    Photo: Kyle Dickman

19 Hotshots Die In Arizona

Fighting the Yarnell Hill Fire

Yesterday evening, 19 wildland firefighters from the Granite Mountain Hotshots, an elite 20-member crew based out of Prescott, Arizona, died fighting the Yarnell Hill Fire, a 2,000-acre blaze southwest of Prescott. This is the biggest wildland firefighting tragedy since 1994, when 14 firefighters were killed on Colorado’s South Canyon Fire, and it recalls the Mann Gulch blaze that burned over 12 smokejumpers in 1949. The reports are incomplete, but this is what’s known.

On Friday, a lightning strike ignited the Yarnell Hill fire in chaparral and grass a mile and half outside of the 650-person town of Yarnell. The fire grew to 800 acres. Because of its proximity to town, it was designated a national priority and an emergency management team and 200 firefighters—state, city, and federal—were brought in. Like most of the firefighters on scene, the Granite Mountain Hotshots, the only city-funded hotshot crew in the nation (most are federal or state), were tasked with protecting houses and building a fuel break along the blaze’s eastern flank.

Around 3:30 P.M. on Sunday, with temperatures in the 100s and humidity in single digits, a thunderstorm moving northeast to southwest over Prescott, 30 miles away, funneled 40-50 miles per hour winds down canyons and directly over the blaze. Reports suggest the hotshots were building a fuel break on the edge of the flames when the winds hit and the fire jumped their line. At some point soon after, the crew deployed their shelters, aluminum pup tents that deflect heat and are used only in the most dire of situations.

The Los Angeles Times reports that the nearby Wickenburg Community Hospital was told to expect injured firefighters. Shortly after, they were told none were coming. The entire crew—one hotshot had not gone out on the line that shift—had been burned over and killed. Some two hundreds homes were also lost.

Some detail of what happened on the line will emerge over the coming days, but it will be months before a full investigation is released. If you’re interested in learning more about the men and women who died yesterday, Connor Radnovich of the Cronkite News wrote a poignant and now-tragic story about a training day in April when the Granite Mountain Hotshots practiced deploying their fire shelters. At one point, Daniel McCarty, one of the senior firefighters on the crew, told the reporter,, “In any other job, you don’t have to worry about your life day in and day out.” To help support the families of the victims, please go to wwfoundation.org.

Read Kyle Dickman's firsthand account of fighting wildfires in California from our July issue.

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    Photo: Courtesy of Rossiya 24

Russian Rocket Explodes on Takeoff

Fourth incident in three years

A Russian rocket that was supposed to carry three navigation satellites into space instead exploded shortly after launch in Kazakhstan on Tuesday, showering flaming, toxic fuel around the Baikonur Cosmodrome.

Authorities told residents of Baikonur, a 70,000-person city near the spaceport, to stay inside following the accident, cautioning about the danger of contamination from the carcinogenic fuel, know as heptyl in Russian, used to power the rocket.

The accident is the fourth in the past three years for the Proton-M, a Russian-made rocket designed to carry heavy loads into space, and marked the first time that a rocket equipped with the DM-3 booster had been used since 2010, when another Proton-M and its payload crashed into the Pacific. But engineer Sergei Gromov said that the DM-3 probably didn't cause the incident.


"DM-3 was to be switched into motion only about an hour after the launch so obviously it cannot be the problem," he told The Times. "Accidents do happen, but we shouldn't see a tendency here either as there have been several successful launches of Proton-M recently."

Via Quartz

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Scuba divers are plentiful in the Florida Keys.     Photo: Patrick Briggs/Flickr

West Hawaii Bans Scuba Spearfishing

Limits take for aquarium fish

The state Board of Land and Natural Resources has banned scuba-assisted spearfishing off West Hawaii and has limited aquarium fish collection to 40 species. After listening to more than six hours of testimony, the board voted 4-2 in favor of the ban.

The move toward a ban on scuba spearfishing began over ten years ago and grew out of concern for the type of fish scuba divers target. Compared to freedivers, scuba divers go deeper into areas where fish take refuge and collect different types of fish, like grey snapper and pink snapper.  

But the Hawaii Nearshore Fisherman say that the ban would compromise the community's ability to collect food, and make fishing more dangerous "The use of scuba and spear is the nature of our gathering style. We have been sustainably gathering, harvesting in this manner for the last 50 years," Tony Costa told the Associated Press.

In a survey conducted last year, nearly 90 percent of West Hawaii's 565 residents supported the scuba ban.

For more, read about the spearfishermen freediving the oil rigs off of Louisiana's coast.

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    Photo: WilleeCole/Shutterstock

Puppy Escapes Peloton

Almost became Tour roadkill




If you had any doubts about the unscrupulousness of professional cyclists, watch as this precious, BuzzFeed-worthy puppy is almost crushed to death under the wheels of the win-if-it-kills-puppies Tour de France peloton this weekend.


You might think that a puppy-processing on live TV might bring the whole of the 100th Tour de France to a screeching halt—but you'd be mistaken. Several dogs have been hit in previous editions, and riders typically just get back on the bike, as they say. [Warning: Though the pup below walks away in the end, the accident is replayed in brutally slow slo-mo.]



If you're looking for more serious TDF coverage, check out our our picks for potential Tour leaders. If not, here's a guide to the best wine pairings for each stage.

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    Photo: Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Microbeads Ending Up In the Great Lakes

Found in face and body washes

The microbeads in your face wash—tiny exfoliating pieces of plastic—are polluting the Great Lakes and killing fish, according to a study published in Marine Pollution Biology. The study found 600,000 microbeads per square kilometer in two separate Lake Erie samples.

Too tiny for water treatment plant filters, the abrasive microbeads slip down your drain and into the water supply. Birds, turtles, and fish mistake the beads for food, and consume the small particles, damaging their digestive tracks and depriving them of nutrients.

"A concern with microplastics is that they're even more widely dispersed, and small enough to be eaten by a much more diverse group of organisms. Once ingested, these compounds and anything they've absorbed can be magnified up the food chain," Kirk Havens, a researcher at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, told the International Science Times.

After lobbying by scientists, cosmetic companies Body Shop, L'Oreal, and Johnson & Johnson have agreed to swap out the plastics for organic materials.

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    Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Cirque Performer Falls to Her Death

Fell 50 feet from 'vertical' stage

Tragedy struck a Cirque du Soleil show in Las Vegas Saturday when a performer plummeted 50 feet to her death. Sarah Guyard-Guillot, 31, was pronounced dead Saturday night, making her the first reported death in Cirque du Soleil’s 30-year history.

The French-born mother of two was reportedly being hoisted up the side of a vertical stage during a performance of the Cirque show, KA,  when she slipped and fell into an open pit below. “Initially, a lot of people in the audience thought it was part of the show,” said audience member Dan Mosqueda. “But you could hear screaming, then groaning, and we could hear a female artist crying from the stage.”

Guyard-Guillot had been with the original cast of KA since 2006 and had been an acrobatic performer for over 20 years.  

Cirque founder Guy Laliberte issued a statement Sunday mourning the loss of their company member and saying that all performances of KA would be cancelled until further notice. “I am heartbroken. I wish to extend my sincerest sympathies to the family. We are all completely devastated,” said Laliberte. “We are reminded with great humility and respect how extraordinary our artists are each and every night. Our focus now is to support each other as a family.”

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