PRESCOTT, Ariz. — Dan Parker had walked the site on Yarnell Hill where 19 firefighters died, among them his son, Wade. He formed an image in his mind of what must have happened as the Granite Mountain Hotshot crew faced flames fueled by an erratic storm.
The Yarnell Hill Fire report released Saturday, almost three months after the disaster, helped resolve that image, confirming much of what Parker, a firefighter himself, suspected. It also affirmed his regard for the men his son served with, including the crew's two top leaders.
"I would send my son out with Eric Marsh and Jesse Steed tomorrow," said Parker, a captain with the Chino Valley Fire District. "In my eyes, those guys did nothing (wrong). And I don't have an issue. None whatsoever."
Families of the 19 fallen firefighters had their first opportunity to hear from fire investigators Saturday morning, just hours before the final report was posted online. State, federal and local officials answered questions in a briefing described as "gut-wrenching," a meeting tinged with anger and frustration, according to one of the officials.
The report did not accuse any of the hotshots of wrongdoing, but it left open questions about the final minutes before the crew deployed emergency shelters, a step taken when no other options remain. The document also gave details about what happened to each firefighter and his shelter, describing burned clothing and melted equipment.
David Turbyfill, the father of Travis Turbyfill, one of the 19 hotshots, said he believes the report shows two factors contributed most to the deaths: ineffective communication and inadequate fire shelters. He thinks the report should erase any doubts about the crew's final actions.
"This crew did not die out of fear," said Turbyfill. "They fought to the bitter end and did everything they were trained to do. They had to make the call to get into the shelters. Those shelters eventually let them down."
At the public news conference, Turbyfill and his wife, Shari, repeated their concerns about inadequate equipment and shelters. A state fire official promised to meet with them to discuss the issue.
"In the end, this is a lesson learned," Turbyfill said. "They will be studying it for years, and it will aid training. But the lesson is not worth the cost."
Tammy Misner, mother of hotshot Sean Misner, read parts of the report at the morning briefing and then tucked it away for the drive from Prescott back to Solvang, Calif. She's not sure if she will ever read it all.
"I was hoping that there would be some kind of closure, that there would just be some feeling that I could begin to let this rest. I didn't get the feeling that that was going to happen," said Misner.
She had believed that the men's deaths would have been mercifully fast, that they wouldn't have suffered or had much time to be afraid. The report confirmed that, saying the temperature would have hit 2,000 degrees rapidly.
"There is some comfort that it would have been over quickly. They didn't have time to be afraid; they were focusing on trying to save their lives, and they were close together," Misner said.
Yet even knowing all that, in the end, the report doesn't change anything.
"I will always miss my boy," Misner said. "That's the hard part."
Not all of the family members gathered for the briefing. Some relatives live out of state, while others said they were not prepared to relive the tragedy.
Jim Norris attended to learn more about what led to the death of his 28-year-old son, Scott Norris, who had been a hotshot for about five years. Karen Norris, Scott's mother, did not attend, "but neither of us has read the report yet, and I'm not ready to read it yet," she said.
Roxanne Warneke, the pregnant widow of hotshot Billy Warneke, attended the family briefing but had plans to attend an Arizona Diamondbacks game Saturday evening with her parents, brother-in-law Fred Warneke and mother-in-law, Kathie Purkey.
"We decided that we needed to do something fun," she said Thursday. She expected that reading the details of the report would be difficult.
"It will open up all of these wounds again, but it is important to know," Warneke said.
"There are so many questions that still need to be answered."
Parker said a team went through the report with the families step by step, from the first lightning strike and firefighters' initial attack through the fire's rapid spread.
"There was emotion, and there (were) tears shed," he said. "And I think everybody was just sitting back, anticipating hearing what they had to say."
At the high school, across a full parking lot crowded with TV satellite trucks, Annemarie Lopez watched her 13-year-old son play first base for the Prescott Badgers.
Lopez knew the fire report was due, but she didn't know it was Saturday.
People had been talking about the report's release for days, she said, anticipating that it might signal a return to normalcy. Because life has been anything but normal for the last three months.
"The fire was just so devastating, for the firefighters, for the families, for the community," Lopez said. "We'll never forget what happened, but it is beginning to feel like we are getting back to business a little bit."
Lopez was not sure what the report said, but she did know one thing.
"Prescott lost 19 men that day," she said. "No report is ever going to explain that."
Later in the morning, Parker reflected on the time since the fire.
"There's been times in the last three months when the wound has been reopened," he said. "And today was one of those days. Hopefully the healing process can begin. We've been doing that since day one. We've been trying to move forward and deal with the things that we had to do and the challenges we had to face.
"I know we're going to be OK," he said.
"It's just going to take some time. The beauty of it is that we have each other to lean on. And that's what we rely on."
Contributing: Karina Bland, Connie Cone Sexton and Richard Ruelas, The Arizona Republic; Kevin Kennedy, KPNX-TV, Phoenix