Deadly Inferno in Arizona Kills 19 Firefighters

Wall of flames reaching 20 feet high blazes out of control when the wind changes direction.
4:51 | 07/01/13

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Transcript for Deadly Inferno in Arizona Kills 19 Firefighters
19 young men impossibly brave, impossibly determined to beat back a wall of raging fire across arizona. The flames 20 feet high, gail force winds. The team was called the hot shots, the s.E.A.L. Team six of firefighters. The tiny tents like these designed to give them a chance against 500 degree heat. What happened and why were so many lost? We have team coverage tonight, the very latest now on the tragedy in arizona. David wright starts us off. 8000 acre blaze, firefighters shouldered the heaviest burden of all, recovering the bodies of so many fallen comrades. Today it seemed all of press cot was here to salute them all. Today they had 19 deaths. Members of the granite mountain shot shots. They are called hot shots because they're trained to go to the hottest part of the fire,en elite team seen here in a training very. It's a completely different ball game. It's the real deal. Reporter: They were just back from fighting another fire in new mexico when this one broke out. 6:30 p.M. Friday sparked by light ening. High winds seen here in time lapse footage have made it treacherous. Late yesterday a sudden shift in the wind check mated the hot shots. For the first time ever the they were forced to take refuge as the fire burned around them. Only one member of the 20-man teamed survived, the dead leest day for firefighters since 9/11. Firefighters lost that day as they charged into the burning towers. We will remember the brave men of the of the granite mountain hot shots. Kifen who is dad is an l.A. Captain. This man's wife is pregnant. Andrew ashcroft has four little kids. He is the best person I've ever met. He gave all for his job and it doesn't even chaompare to what he gave to his family. Reporter: HERE TONIGHT 19 Flags, 19 flowers plus a whole community's grief. They are the best at what they do. Ginger zee has more on the tools they turn to as they fight for their lives. Reporter: You've got fiberglass insulation, sandwiched by foil on cloth. It was their last best hope. Reporter: As the flames climbed up to 20 feet the 19 hot shots deployed their last chance. Those emergency fire shelters. The men who died trained extend with what they called the shake and bake tent. You shake to open them and then bake. The they had as little as 30 seconds. They form a tight circle and keep their heads away from the fire. No matter what they hear, see or feel, they have to make just an absolute commitment to staying with that shelter if they want to go home. Reporter: The tents can protect against flames up to 500 degrees, creating a pocket of breathable air. Still the temperature inside can soar to 200. This firefighter survived a different wildfire, his tent protecting him from the infern oh. It was like somebody closing a door on the oven. Reporter: Yesterday those tents were no match for what's being called a perfect storm for fire. Bash lives here now and she saw the winds suddenly shift, escaping just in time. The wind changed and I turned around and the house was are in flames. Reporter: A nearby thunderstorm helped fuel the blaze. Air rises up inside the thunderstorm from added moisture from brush that's bunk. Powerful downdrafts drop to the ground and can quickly change the direction of the wind and the fire. The erratic nature of the fire behavior yesterday is dangerous, really dangerous. Reporter: Pair that with a severe drought and 100 degree temperatures and you've got all the ingredients for a perfect storm. Ginger zee, abc news, congress, arizona.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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