TODAY   |  July 04, 2013

Search for clues begins in 19 firefighters’ deaths

As the fire that killed 19 Arizona firefighters continues to rage, federal investigators are beginning their search for clues as to how the veteran Hotshot crew was overtaken by the blaze. NBC’s Miguel Almaguer reports.

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>>> we're learning more today about that deadly wildfire tragedy in arizona. thomas roberts is in for natalie this morning with that. good morning.

>> good morning, everybody. federal investigators are now trying to figure out the details around the deaths of 19 firefighters who perished in that out of control wildfire this weekend. nbc's miguel almaguer has the latest.

>> reporter: the fire is now 45% containment and no longer the threat it used to be. today in the burn zone, investigators are expected to return to the spot where 19 firefighters died.

>> on one side of the street, the homes are leveled. the other ones are fine.

>> reporter: the investigation begins on the mountain side where the hot shot crew was overcome by flames.

>> who all went up the hill?

>> reporter: radio calls, including the may day , will help investigators recreate their final moments, whether those 45 mile an hour winds sunday will play a key role in figuring out what went wrong.

>> we're really looking at piecing together all aspects of the incident. we're looking at fire behavior. we'll look at the fuels.

>> the granite mountain hot shots begin their journey home.

>> reporter: though 19 firefighters never made it out of the fire fight, wednesday, in a solemn 100-mile journey, their vehicles came home. families have been left behind but not forgotten.

>> dustin deford.

>> reporter: in three days, nearly $1 million has been raised for the victims' loved ones . the parkers will bury their son wade next week.

>> it's been amazing, and the outpouring, it just keeps coming and coming and coming. it's just overwhelming.

>> reporter: today fire officials say it's too early to know if any residents may have been killed in this blaze. officials will go door to door to check for bodies over the next several days. certainly not the way folks here wanted to remember this 4th of july . thomas?

>> nbc's miguel almaguer reporting. miguel , thanks so much.