TODAY   |  July 01, 2013

19 firefighters killed in fast-moving Ariz. blaze

Fanned by hot winds, a deadly blaze exploded out of control on Sunday in Arizona, overtaking 19 firefighters, 18 of them from the same elite Prescott, Ariz., Granite Mountain Hotshots team. NBC’s Miguel Almaguer reports.

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>> of arizona. one of the worst disasters in decade.

>> 19 members of a so-called hot shot crew were digging a fire break northwest of phoenix when heavy winds pushed the flames on top of the group. we want to get to miguel. good morning to you. what is the latest.

>> reporter: savannah, good morning. this is the deadliest wild fire involving firefighters in decades. at this hour they say it's too early to tell exactly what went wrong. fanned by hot whipping winds the deadly blaze exploded out of control sunday. flames overtook a team of 19 firefighters, trapped with no time to escape.

>> 19 firefighters were killed in probably the worst disaster that's taken place in history here in the state of arizona. we grieve for the families, we grieve for the department. we grieve for the city.

>> the victims were members of the elite granite mountain hot shots team. this video last year shows the group training. the unit often deployed ahead of the fire building containment lines and protecting homes in the face of danger. fire officials say the crew deployed their fire shelters, a tent-like blanket to shield from flames and heat but the blaze was so intense the team never had a chance.

>> i can only tell you that right now we're an organization and city in grief.

>>eporter: sparked by lightning friday, fuelled by drought like conditions and erratic winds, the so-called yarnell hill fire destroyed 200 homes. half the city decimated. today hundreds are evacuated. many will have nothing to return to.

>> the house was on fire when we left. everything was there but it was on fire. so it's gone.

>> reporter: ranging out of control this morning, up to 400 firefighters will battle the blaze today. the president called the victims heros. a tight nit group all members of the prescott fire department .

>> we're devastated. we lost 19 of the finest people you'll ever meet. we're in crisis.

>> reporter: it's with heavy hearts that the fire fight will continue today. this blaze is still raging out of control. it is 0% contained. it's charred 2,000 acres. firefighters will battle the blaze today in triple digit heat. the governor of arizona calls this a sad day not just for the state here but for the nation.