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PHOENIX -- State workplace safety officials investigating the June deaths of 19 firefighters in an Arizona blaze were blocked by federal authorities from interviewing another fire crew out of fear their statements would compromise confidential information.

According to the Arizona Republic, the Arizona Division of Occupational Safety and Health was stymied in its investigation by being denied access to key interviews. The Arizona State Forestry Division was fined $559,000 after the ADOSH probe found willful and serious lapses of workplace safety rules.

The ADOSH report stands in stark contrast to an earlier investigation commissioned by the Forestry Division, which found that state fire officials communicated poorly but followed proper procedures.

The U.S Department of Agriculture, which employs hotshot crews, said allowing access by state investigators to the other team posed a serious risk of release of protected information.

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Information from: The Arizona Republic, http://www.azcentral.com

Associated Press,

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