They weren't intending to be gone long. Just find the 2 Yuris and return. They were assuming they were lost not injured. That's why the flashlights were put out, the furthest was switched on to mark the direction back. The one at the tent was for the first person back to switch on and had a full battery in case the furthest one failed. They all knew the 2 Yuris had gone for firewood and which direction, so they all set off on the same route. Possibly following the 2 Yuris trail down the slope. It probably took a while to locate them at the tree.
I got recently familiarized this tragic incident. Actually it was Johan Gaume&Alexander M. Puzrin article of slab avalanche. I got more interested and read little more about the incident. I started to think of means of communication between tent and cedar. The distance was about 1500 m, they didn't have radios and shouting doesn't carry the distance so only means of communication was light.
If there was indeed two separate groups between tent and at cedar collecting firewood and firewood group got sudden emergency situation, they might have tried to communicate by means of light. There was one flashlight at tent, other was left to route between tent and cedar, possibly marking route back or marking hazardous place in route. Firewood collecting group got sudden emergency situation so that they were unable to go back to tent and their flashlight was left to route, only means to communicate was burning fire. They made fire, but it cannot be seen from tent. They have to climb higher ground back to the route or climb to cedar.
Branches were cut from side facing tent for clear visibility. You don't have to cut branches if you only spot towards tent, but if you want to be seen clearly to the tent, clearing the branches will help. Next you have to climb back to tree with burning stick to be seen from the tent. That would have been difficult task. You may even have to carry burning stick with your teeth, because both hands are needed to climb. Was there strange burning marks in hands, face and hair?
In any case they might have been succesful and signal to the tent group about their emergency situation and group from tent walked down to help comrades. They might even managed to simple communication. If I remember correctly, some of them was studying radio technology so morsecode was likely familiar to them. Is it possible, that they have used flashlight from tent and fire from cedar to communicate between separate groups?