AZ Wildfire kills 19 firefighters

AP Photo/The Arizona Republic, Tom Story

YARNELL, Ariz. - A wildfire that's killed 19 firefighters continues to burn overnight in a forest northwest of Phoenix.

It's lighting up the sky above Yarnell, a town of about 700 residents that had already been evacuated.

The firefighters who were killed were an elite crew, who often hiked for miles into the wilderness with heavy gear to build lines of protection between people and fires.

Prescott, Arizona's Fire Chief Dan Fraijo says the team had to deploy emergency shelters when "something drastic" happened.

President Barack Obama is expressing his condolences to the families of the 19 firefighters who died.

Obama says the firefighters were heroes and highly skilled professionals who "put themselves in harm's way to protect the lives and property of fellow citizens they would never meet."

Obama, who is traveling in Africa, says the federal government will be in close contact with state and local officials in Arizona to provide support.

The firefighters, members of an elite crew fighting a forest fire northwest of Phoenix, were overtaken Sunday by a fast-moving blaze stoked by hot winds. The fire also destroyed some 200 homes.