TODAY   |  July 02, 2013

Ariz. community mourns 19 firefighters

The small town of Prescott, Ariz., is grieving after 19 men were lost fighting a massive fire Sunday evening. Fire experts are still “wondering what happened” when the men to be overtaken so quickly. NBC’s Miguel Almaguer reports.

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>> died battling a dangerous wild fire .

>> this is a community in mourning and the fire is spreading and threatening more homes. we'll talk to the widow of one of the fallen. andrew ashcraft. she shared to us the final photo he texted her showing him and fellow member of the team moment bfrs the fire made the devastating fatal turn. but first, the latest on the investigation. let's get right to miguel. good morning to you.

>> reporter: savannah, good morning. in the next day or two firefighters hope to know more about what happened on the day so many died here. as they search for answers, a community grieves. the 19 fallen firefighters gave their lives to protect their community.

>> the city of prescott lost, the state of arizona and the nation. they were the best.

>> reporter: 14 of the victims were in their 20s. young men who were starting families, pursuing their dreams and were in the prime of their lives.

>> i was very proud of him. he was a good kid. and he's going to be so missed.

>> reporter: last night, baseball's arizona diamondbacks wore black arm bands and unveiled special yarnell jerseys for the 19 fallen men. the hot shot team from prescott was taught in the middle of a violent fire storm. when emergency crews reached the team, it was too late. their fire shelters couldn't protect them as flames quickly pushed in.

>> this was their backyard. for fire to overrun the entire crew has all of us scratching our head and wondering what happened.

>> with the yarnell hill fire still raging out of control this morning, fire officials now believe an estimated 50 homes were destroyed. but the loss in prescott isn't measured in property. instead, in lives. this somber salute, a convoy of coroner vans carrying the body of the victims.

>> if this day on the line i should lose my life, lord bless my hot shot crew, my children, and my wife.

>> reporter: a community paying tribute to a young and fearless team that will never come home. the crew was part of a group of 20. the lone survivor was moving the vehicle and not injured by the flames. as for this fire, it charred 8,000 acres and is 0% contained and this morning it is threatening some 200 homes, savannah.