Firefighters will work on the eastern side of the fire in an effort to protect homes in evacuated areas, as air tankers drop fire retardant on the perimeter and five helicopters douse hot spots with water.
Billows of thick black smoke covered the sky as the giant flames leaped from one stretch of parched land to another. With high temperatures -- it hit 98 degrees in Yarnell on Monday -- and dry fuel in the fire's path, firefighters faced tough conditions in a race to contain the blaze.
Hotshot crews are elite firefighters
Sunday was the deadliest day for firefighters since the 9/11 attacks. And it is the deadliest wildland fire since 1933, when 25 firefighters died as a blaze burned in light chaparral near Griffith Park, California, according to a list from the U.S. National Wildfire Coordinating Group.
Mary Rasmussen, spokeswoman for the incident command team charged with fighting the blaze, said the cause of the firefighters' deaths is being investigated, and answers might come in the next three days.
Authorities have information that during the blaze, the firefighters deployed their fire shelters. The shelters must be timed well. Set it up too soon, and the heat inside the shelter can become suffocating. Deploy it too late, and the fire is already on top of you.
Wearing gloves, a firefighter will lie on the ground under the shelter, the ground being the only thing keeping the firefighter cool. The shelter will block 100% of the heat from flames and hot gases and 95% of the radiant heat from the flames themselves.
Drivers fleeing the area were chased by dark plumes filling the air. Some evacuees paused to look from afar, wondering if the flames had torched their homes.
The blaze hadn't touched Prescott yet. But like many other fire departments across the state, the Prescott team jumped in to help.
"A hotshot crew are the elite firefighters," state forestry spokesman Art Morrison said. "They're usually (a) 20-person crew, and they're the ones who actually go in and dig the fire line, cut the brush to make a fuel break. And so they would be as close to the fire as they felt they safely could."
"In normal circumstances, when you're digging fire line, you make sure you have a good escape route, and you have a safety zone set up," Morrison said. "Evidently, their safety zone wasn't big enough, and the fire just overtook them."
'Words cant describe the loss'
One of the firefighters -- Woyjeck, the son of a Los Angeles County fire captain -- joined the Prescott unit just three months ago.
Woyjeck, an avid outdoorsman, always wanted to be a firefighter like his father, Joe Woyjeck told "Anderson Cooper 360" on Monday evening.
Joe Woyjeck said he last talked to his son by phone on Sunday morning.
"He said, 'Dad, we got a fire in Yarnell, Arizona. ... I'll give you a call later,'" the elder Woyjeck recalled.
He said it hasn't sunk in yet that he won't get that phone call.
"Words can't describe the loss that our family is feeling right now," Joe Woyjeck said.
Kevin Woyjeck wasn't the only firefighter's son in the Granite Mountain crew. MacKenzie was the son of retired California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection Capt. Mike MacKenzie, according to that department.
'They were heroes'