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Firefighter's widow speaks out on fire official's controversial words

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A month after the Yarnell wildfire killed 19 firefighters, a comment by a top state official is drawing criticism and has upset many of the victim's families.

Earlier this week, a top forestry official made "unauthorized comments," saying one of the fallen broke rules that put the crew at risk that day. The state's forestry division is calling those remarks inappropriate, and now loved are speaking out.

Blistering comments blaming firefighter Eric Marsh for what happened in Yarnell are sparking controversy.

Desiree Steed is the widow of Jesse Steed, the second in command that day.

"I feel like having the blame put on any specific person, Eric included, is a very unfair assumption at this point and regardless where the blame lies, it doesn't make a difference. It's not going to bring them back, its asking for controversy, its asking for contention among the families and that's not fair to us," says Desiree.

Steed says her husband would have never stepped foot on a path too dangerous for himself or his fellow firefighters.

"I know for a fact my husband has refused to do things and if he felt like they were in danger he would have refused path or whatever they were doing. The fact that he was with them is that he must have not seen danger as well."

In a news article, state forestry official Jerry Payne says "Eric Marsh" didn't follow protocol and risked lives. Fire officials are calling those words unethical and inappropriate.

"Everybody is entitled to their own opinion, but not entitled to their own facts and the facts will come out in the investigation," says Wade Ward of the Prescott Fire Department.

19 firefighters are now memorialized at the place they once worked. Their families say the opinions about what happened and what rules were broken undermine what these men did everyday -- put their lives on the line.

"What they did in the last moments and last minutes of their lives, and decisions they made, we'll never know and for people to sit and make those decisions now they are gone is completely unfair," says Desiree.

Whatever the official investigation reveals, loved ones blame an uncontrollable force, not the other firefighters for their loss.

"Those guys loved what they did and always put safety first and it's a terrible tragic thing that happened. Mother Nature just sometimes wins."

The official investigation is due out in mid-September. Still, whatever the results, Prescott fire officials say they stand by their crew's decision that day.

Click here to read the story by Investigative Media reporter John Dougherty:

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