Yarnell Hill Wildfire Arizona | Remembering Fallen Firefighters - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Remembering Arizona's Fallen Firefighters

Andrew Ashcraft, 29

Andrew Ashcraft was married to wife, Juliann and had four children. He texted his wife a picture from the fire on Sunday, just hours before he died. "It was out of the ordinary because he said, 'This is getting wild,' and 'Peeple's Valley and Yarnell are looking to burn,'" Juliann Ashcraft told CBS News. "That is not common language. Because usually he gets the thrill (fighting) the fire, from being there and helping. And this was a different scenario." Juliann Ashcraft said she heard and saw reports the firefighters had died, but did not know for sure until authorities came to the door with the news. The last photo Andrew sent her was posted by the Prescott Granite Mountain Hotshots on their Facebook page. Prescott High School physical education teacher and coach Lou Beneitone taught many of the Hotshots, and remembered Andrew Ashcraft as a fitness-oriented student. "He had some athletic ability in him and he was a go-getter, too. You could pretty much see, from young freshman all the way, he was going to be physically active." Beneitone said athletic prowess was a must for the Hotshots. "That's what it takes. You gotta be very physically fit, and you gotta like it, gotta like the hard work." Ashcraft, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, was honored to be a member of the Hotshot crew, and "he just had a really sweet spirit about him," Elise Smith, a Prescott, AZ, resident, told The Deseret News of Salt Lake City. "We would watch Andrew and Juliann marry and have children," said Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett. He said his daughter is a close friend of the Ashcrafts and said he can only imagine what their family is now going through. "Juliann was always concerned when he was fighting this fire, but he had always come home," Bennett said. "Seven, eight, later we get a call that this time he didn't come home." Juliann Ashcraft said the children are too young to understand. "I've told them every chance I've gotten since then, 'your dad loves you and he's with you,' and they just call him their angel and they said they'll see him in heaven."

Kevin Woyjeck, 21

For Kevin Woyjeck, the fire station was always a second home. His father, Capt. Joe Woyjeck (left), is a nearly 30-year veteran of the Los Angeles County (CA) Fire Department. Keith Mora, an inspector with that agency, said Kevin often accompanied his dad to the station and on ride-alongs, and always intended to follow in his footsteps."He wanted to become a firefighter like his dad and hopefully work hand-in-hand," Mora said outside of the fire station in Seal Beach, CA, where the Woyjeck family lives. Mora remembered the younger Woyjeck as a "joy to be around," a man who always had a smile on his face. He was trained as an EMT and worked as an Explorer, which is a mentorship training program to become a professional firefighter. "He was a great kid. Unbelievable sense of humor, work ethic that was not parallelled to many kids I've seen at that age. He wanted to work very hard."

Anthony Rose, 23

Anthony Rose was one of the youngest victims. He grew up in Wisconsin and previously worked as a firefighter in nearby Crown King before moving on to become a Hotshot. Retired Crown King firefighter Greg Flores said Rose "just blossomed in the fire department. He did so well and helped so much in Crown King. We were all so very proud of him." Flores said the town was planning a fundraiser for Rose and hoped to also have a memorial to honor him. "He was the kind of guy that his smile lit up the whole room and everyone would just rally around him," he said. "He loved he what as doing, and that brings me some peace of heart." He leaves behind a girlfriend who is expecting their baby in October.

Eric Marsh, 43

Eric Marsh was an avid mountain biker who grew up in Ashe County, NC, but became hooked on firefighting while studying biology at Arizona State University, said Leanna Racquer, the ex-wife of his cousin. Marsh lived with Racquer and her then-husband during the winters from 1992 through 1996 in North Carolina, but kept returning to Arizona during fire season. After college, he kept working as a firefighter, eventually landing a full-time job and settling in northern Arizona. He even moved his parents to the state, she said. Marsh was superintendent of the Hotshot crew and the oldest of the 19 who died. "He was great -- he was the best at what he did," Racquer said. "He is awesome and well-loved and they are hurting," she said of his family. Marsh was married but had no children, said his cousin, Scott Marsh of Pisgah Forest, NC. His father, John Marsh, told the Jefferson Post newspaper in Jefferson, NC, that his only child "was a great son. He was compassionate and caring about his crew."

Christopher MacKenzie, 30

An avid snowboarder, Chris MacKenzie grew up in California's San Jacinto Valley, where he was a 2001 graduate of Hemet High School and a former member of the town's fire department. He joined the U.S. Forest Service in 2004, and then transferred two years ago to the Prescott Fire Department, longtime friend Dave Fulford-Brown told The Riverside Press-Enterprise. MacKenzie, like at least one other member of the Granite Mountain Hotshots, had followed his father into firefighting. Fulford-Brown, also a former firefighter, feared for the worst as soon as he heard the news of the Arizona firefighters. "I said, 'Oh, my God, that's Chris' crew.' I started calling him and calling him and got no answer," he told The Press-Enterprise. MacKenzie, he said, "lived life to the fullest ... and was fighting fire just like his dad. He was finishing his credentials to get promoted and loved the people. It's an insane tragedy."

Robert Caldwell, 23

Friends characterized Robert Caldwell as the smart man in the bunch. "He was really smart, he had a good sense of humor," said Chase Madrid, who worked as a Hotshot for two years, but sat this year out. "He was one of the smart guys in the crew who could get the weather, figure out the mathematics. It was just natural for him," Madrid said. It was Caldwell's intelligence and know-how that got him appointed as a squad boss. "Bob was a really good friend," added Gina Martinez, who knew many of the Hotshots. He married his wife, Claire, last year and they were raising their son.

Clayton Whitted, 28

Clayton Whitted was promoted to "squad leader" in May 2010. Full of heart and determination, Whitted might not have been the biggest guy around, but he was among the hardest-working. His former Prescott High School coach, Lou Beneitone, said Whitted was a "wonderful kid" who always had a big smile on his face. Whitted played for the football team as an offensive and defensive lineman. "He was a smart young man with a great personality, just a wonderful personality," said Beneitone. "When he walked into a room, he could really light it up." Beneitone said Whitted loved being a firefighter and was well-respected among his crew. He said he ran into Whitted about two months ago and they shook hands and hugged, and talked about the upcoming fire season. "I told him to be careful," Beneitone said.

Scott Norris, 28

Scott Norris was engaged to be married. His fiancée is a sergeant with the Prescott Police Department. Norris was known around Prescott through his part-time job at Bucky O'Neill Guns. "Scott was an exceptional man, wise beyond his years," said Jim Marnell who runs the gun shop. He said Norris was witty and had an uncanny ability to relate with anyone he met, regardless of their age or background. And when it was time for him to go back to the Hotshot crew, he wished him well, never thinking of what he would be up against. "We did say good luck to him, but we never expected him to be in any danger," Marnell said. "Here in Arizona, the gun shops are a lot like barbershops. Sometimes you don't go in there to buy anything at all, you just go to talk," said resident William O'Hara. "I never heard a dirty word out of the guy. He was the kind of guy who if he dated your daughter, you'd be OK with it. He was just a model of a young, ideal American gentleman." O'Hara's son Ryan, 19, said Norris' life and tragic death had inspired him to live a more meaningful life. "He was a loving guy. He loved life. And I've been guilty of not looking as happy as I should, and letting things get to me, and Scott wasn't like that at all."

Dustin De Ford, 24

Dustin De Ford tried out for the Hotshot crew in January 2012, telling friends on Twitter that he had passed the physical fitness test and asking for prayers as he moved on to the interview stage of the process. He grew up with six brothers and one sister in Ekalaka, MT. He moved to Arizona from Montana after he was hired, and he worked to improve his skills on the climbing wall at a gym near the firehouse. "He listened very well. He was very respectful," said Tony Burris, a trainer at Captain Crossfit. "He kind of had a dry sense of humor." Soon after he interviewed for the Hotshots, De Ford signed up for the Spartan Race, a rugged, 8-mile challenge through the mud and around various obstacles in Chandler, a suburb of Phoenix.

Sean Misner, 26

Sean Misner, 26, leaves behind a wife who is seven months pregnant, said Mark Swanitz, principal of Santa Ynez Valley Union High School in Santa Barbara County, CA, where Misner graduated in 2005. Misner and his wife chose the name Jaxon for their baby boy, due in September. Misner played varsity football and also participated in the school's sports medicine program, in which he wrapped sprained ankles and took care of sidelined athletes. "He was a team player, a real helper," Swanitz told The Associated Press. In high school, Misner played several positions, including wide receiver and defensive back. He was slim for a high school football player, but that didn't stop him from tackling his opponents, recalled retired football coach Ken Gruendyke. "He played with tremendous heart and desire," Gruendyke said. "He wasn't the biggest or fastest guy on the team but he played with great emotion and intensity." "He was always the guy you could confide in, you could tell im anything and he's be there for you," said Jason Lambert, Misner's good friend.

Travis Carter, 31

At Captain Crossfit, a gym near the firehouse where the Hotshots were stationed, Travis Carter was known as the strongest one out of the crew -- but also the most humble. "No one could beat him," trainer Janine Pereira said. "But the thing about him was he would never brag about it. He would just kill everyone and then go and start helping someone else finish." Carter, 31, of Paulden, was famous for once holding a plank for 45 minutes, and he was notorious for making up brutal workouts. The crew recently did a five-mile run during wilderness training, then he made them go to Captain Crossfit in the afternoon for another really hard workout. "The other guys who came in here always said that even though he was in charge, he was always the first one at the fire, the first one in action," Pereira said. He is survived by his wife, Krista, a son, Brayden, 7, and daughter, Brielle, 3.

Travis Turbyfill, 27

Known as "Turby" among crew members, Travis Turbyfill got a full-time position with the Hotshots when another member's girlfriend asked him to quit. Turbyfill often worked with other Hotshots at Captain Crossfit, a warehouse filled with mats, obstacle courses, climbing walls and acrobatic rings near the firehouse. He would train in the morning and then return in the afternoon with his wife and kids. Trainer Janine Pereira said she recently kidded Turbyfill for skipping workouts. His excuse was that he wanted to spend some quality time at Dairy Queen. "He was telling me that it's because it was Blizzard week, and he was just going to eat a Blizzard every night," she said. Tony Burris, another trainer, said he enjoyed watching Turbyfill with his two daughters. "Because he's this big, huge Marine, Hotshot guy, and he has two little girls, reddish, blonde curly hair, and they just loved their dad," he said.

Wade Parker, 22

At 22, Wade Parker had just joined the Hotshots team. His father works for the nearby Chino Valley Fire Department, said retired Prescott Fire Department Capt. Jeff Knotek, who had known Parker since he was "just a little guy." The younger Parker had been very excited about being part of the Hotshot crew, Knotek said. "He was another guy who wanted to be a second-generation firefighter," Knotek said. "Big, athletic kid who loved it, aggressive, assertive and in great shape." "It's just a shame to see this happen," Knotek said. Friend Laura Kirk described him as a fun-loving daredevil who loved sports, his church, and his fiancee. They were supposed to be married in October. "He grew up with my kids, very close to my kids," said Laura Kirk. She said she received a text message Sunday night telling her Parker was one of the 19 brave men who sacrificed their lives in the Yarnell Hill Fire. "I was waiting for the next text that said it was a mistake, it wasn't true, we messed up, but that text never came," Kirk said.

William "Billy" Warneke, 25

Billy Warneke and his wife, Roxanne, were expecting their first child in December, his grandmother, Nancy Warneke, told The Press-Enterprise newspaper in Riverside, CA. Billy Warneke grew up in Hemet, CA., along with fellow Granite Mountain Hotshot Chris MacKenzie. He then married his high school sweetheart, Roxanne. He was a four-year U.S. Marine Corps veteran who served a tour in Iraq and joined the hotshot crew in April, buying a property in Prescott, near where his sister lived, the newspaper reported. Nancy Warneke said she called her sister after seeing the fire on the news. "She said, 'He's gone. They're all gone,"' Nancy Warneke told The Press-Enterprise. "Even though it's a tragedy for the whole family, he was doing what he loved to do. He loved nature and was helping preserve nature." "He wanted to get on the Hotshot crew in Prescott a year ago but wasn't able to get on so he continued waiting and volunteering," said Jack Warneke, Billy Warneke's grandfather.

John Percin, 24

John Percin loved baseball and had an unforgettable laugh. In his aunt's eyes, he was, simply, "an amazing young man. He was probably the strongest and bravest young man I have ever met in my life," Donna Percin Pederson said in an interview with The Associated Press from her home in Portland, OR. Percin was a multisport high school athlete who graduated in 2007 from West Linn High School, southeast of Portland. Geoff McEvers grew up playing baseball with Percin and remembered him as a fun-loving guy with an unforgettable laugh, The Oregonian newspaper reported. McEvers said he learned about Percin's death through friends. "It's already tragic when you hear about those who died," McEvers told the newspaper, "but when you find out it's someone you know personally, it's tough."

Joe Thurston, 32

Joe Thurston was originally from Utah, where he met his wife Marsena. "He was never one to shy away from a challenge or new experience," recalled Thurston’s classmate and friend, E.J. Overson, in an interview with the Salt Lake Tribune. His friends described him as a bit of a daredevil, who enjoyed skateboarding and cliff-diving. He and his wife were raising two young boys.

Jesse Steed, 36

Jesse Steed was athletic and always concerned with others. Steed is fondly remembered by his fellow classmates at Chino Valley High School, where he graduated in 1995. His friend, Kris Mazy, tells CBS 5 News that Steed played on the high school soccer team. He served his country, before dedicating himself to serving the Prescott Fire Department. Steed served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1996-2000. He joined the Hotshots crew in Prescott in 2003. Steed is survived by his wife, Desiree, and their two children, 4-year-old Caden, and 3-year-old Cambria. His brother Cassidy Steed lives in Northern California and is a police officer. He also has a brother Levi Federwisch who lives in Chino Valley and a sister. "He was always compassionate to people around him, and still with just a clown-like demeanor and definitely a mischievous streak," said Garic Hayes, Steed's good friend.

Grant McKee, 21

Grant Quinn McKee grew up in California before making his home in Prescott. He perished alongside his cousin, fellow Hotshot Robert Caldwell. McKee was an enthusiast of the budding sport of "disc golf," in which players throw a disc or Frisbee at a target.

Garret Zuppiger, 27

Garret Zuppiger posted sporadically on a blog that showed him to be an adventurer who enjoyed trying new experiences. He wrote that he attended the University of Arizona. He was extremely hard working and full of energy. He wrote, "I'd rather be flying, all day long!" He also boasted of building a "Ski-Chair," which was a recliner mounted on skis.


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