ALBANY, N.Y. -- President Obama calls the 19 firefighters who died fighting the Arizona wildfire heroes. The fire was 13 square miles.
"They're very fluid," Lieutenant Darryl Kittle, a fire ranger with the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, said. "The big three: fuel, weather and topography determines how fires move and how you fight them."
Kittle said fires like the one in Arizona can get big very quickly, and it's always a challenge determining how the conditions will change. The 19 firefighters were called "hotshots," a term referring to their elite status.
"Hot shot crews attain the highest level of training to go out and fight a fire," Lt. Kittle said. "The number of years they have on the job and the level of experience they have is generally the best. But tragedies do happen."
The firefighters did attempt to protect themselves in fire shelters, which Kittle said are designed to reflect radiant heat.
"It's going to be warm," Lt. Kittle said. "It can get up to 130 degrees or better in here. "But it's breathable air. And the airway is the most important thing to protect."
The wildfire destroyed half of the homes and businesses in its path.