Sean Misner

A 26-year-old Santa Ynez Valley firefighter’s death, along with the loss of 18 other Hot Shot crewmen earlier this year, is being blamed on an Arizona agency’s incompetence.

An Arizona state safety commission’s report released this week found that the death of Sean Misner and fellow crewmen fighting a wildfire near Prescott last June was due to poor planning by their superiors, faulty communication, and being sent to fight a horrendous blaze to protect buildings and pastures that were “indefensible.”

They were called to fight a fast-moving fire without proper briefing, with inadequate maps and radios that failed to allow them proper contact with their commanders, the commission found.

No proper risk assessment had been made as to their safety or an awareness by their commanders of the danger faced by the Granite Mountain hotshot team, said consultants to the Arizona Division of Occupational Safety and Health. The Arizona State Forestry Division now is being fined $559,000, and other state officials proposed payments of $25,000 to dependents.

Misner was nephew of Montecito Fire District operations chief Terry McElwee and grandson of former Montecito fire chief Herb McElwee. Misner’s wife, Amanda, gave birth to his son two months after his death. Misner was a graduate of Santa Ynez Valley High School.


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