Stories of the 19 firefighters who died in Ariz. fireLoading
  • Firefighters Killed Vignettes
    ANDREW ASHCRAFT: AN ATHLETIC, GO-GETTER Prescott High School physical education teacher and coach Lou Beneitone taught many of the Hotshots, and remembered Andrew Ashcraft, 29, 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,” Prescott resident Elise Smith told The Deseret News of Salt Lake City. Ashcraft left behind a wife, Juliann, and four children, the newspaper reported.
    Photo caption: This undated photo provided by the Ashcraft family shows firefighter Andrew Ashcraft with his wife Juliann and their four children. Ashcraft was one of the 19 firefighters killed battling an out-of-control wildfire in Yarnell, Ariz., on June 30, 2013.
    Uncredited | AP
    ROBERT CALDWELL: THE SMART ONE Friends characterized Robert Caldwell, 23, 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. His cousin, Grant McKee, also was one of the Hotshots killed Sunday. “Robert was a gentle giant – he was man of few words,” said his aunt, Laurie McKee. He had just gotten married in November, and had a 5-year-old stepson. “Both of these boys were only interested in having a family life. Robert was newly married, and Grant was engaged. They just wanted the house and the dog,” McKee said. Mary Hoffmann was grandmother to both boys. “To have two grandsons gone, it’s devastation,” she said.
    Photo caption: Claire Caldwell, center, wipes tears away while others applaud at a public memorial service July 1, 2013, in the gymnasium of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University for the Granite Mountain Interagency Hotshot Crew based in Prescott, Arizona killed in the line of duty while fighting a fire in the small town of Yarnell. Caldwell's husband, Robert Caldwell, was one of the 19 firefighters killed in the line of duty and honored.
    Mark Boster | MCT
  • Firefighters Killed Vignettes
    DUSTIN DEFORD: DRY SENSE OF HUMOR Dustin DeFord, 24, (pictured) had been a firefighter since he turned 18 and started as a volunteer in tiny Ekalaka, Mont. His father, the Rev. Steve DeFord, said the outpouring of support there has been unbelievable. “We’ve got enough food in the house to last a year,” he said. DeFord graduated from Cornerstone Bible Institute in Hot Springs, S.D., three years ago, his father said, and always believed God was his guiding force. On his Facebook page last year, he talked about wanting to find work in western Montana, but God instead moved him to Arizona. Immediately 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.” Another trainer, Janine Pereira, echoed that sentiment. “You would say something to him, and he would respond with a crack, which was funny because he was so shy,” she said. DeFord is survived by nine brothers and sisters, including a Marine Corps staff sergeant who is traveling home from Afghanistan, an older brother who is fighting fire with a helicopter team in New Mexico and a younger brother on a Hotshot crew in Alaska.
  • Firefighters Killed
    ERIC MARSH: HOOKED ON FIREFIGHTING Eric Marsh, 43, was an avid mountain biker who grew up in Ashe County, N.C., and became hooked on firefighting while studying at Appalachian 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 returned 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’s 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, N.C. His father, John Marsh, told the Jefferson Post newspaper in Jefferson, N.C., that his only child “was a great son.” “He was compassionate and caring about his crew.”
    Photo caption: This 2012 photo provided by Scott Marsh shows Eric Marsh, left, superintendent of the Granite Mountain Hotshots, during a visit with his cousin Scott Marsh in North Carolina. Eric was one of the 19 Granite Mountain Hotshot Crew, who was killed Sunday evening above the town of Yarnell, northwest of Phoenix, Ariz., in the nation's biggest loss of firefighters in a wildfire in 80 years.
    hons | AP
  • Firefighters Killed
    GRANT MCKEE: GIVING NATURE Grant McKee, 21, loved to give things away. “Even as a child, I’d ask him where things were, and he’d say, ‘Oh, such and such liked it.’ And sometimes it really cost a lot! But he’d say, ‘Oh, he liked it so much,”’ said his grandmother, Mary Hoffmann. “So on his birthday, I started to say, ‘I hope you’re going to keep this!”’ she said. McKee’s cousin, Robert Caldwell, also was a Hotshot and also was killed Sunday. “I had four grandchildren, but Grant was the sweetest most giving nature of any of my grandkids,” Hoffman said. “We used to think he was a little angel.”McKee’s mother said Grant was training to be an emergency medical technician and only intended to work with the Hotshots for the summer. During EMT training, he would ask for extra shifts at the emergency room. And because his superiors liked him, they would give them to him, Laurie McKee said. “Grant was one of the most likable people you could ever meet,” she said. “Grant was friendly, he was outgoing. Everybody loved Grant.”
    Julie Jacobson | AP
  • Firefighters Killed
    SEAN MISNER: ‘TREMENDOUS HEART AND DESIRE’ 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, where Misner graduated in 2005. Misner played varsity football and also participated in the school’s sports medicine program, where 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.”
    Julie Jacobson | AP
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    SCOTT NORRIS: THE ‘IDEAL AMERICAN GENTLEMAN’ Scott Norris, 28, was known around Prescott through his part-time job at Bucky O’Neill Guns. “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,” resident William O’Hara said. “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.”
    Tom Tingle | AP
  • Firefighters Killed
    JOHN PERCIN JR.: STRONG, BRAVE, AMAZING He loved baseball and had an unforgettable laugh. In his aunt’s eyes, John Percin Jr. (pictured) 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, Ore. John Percin Sr. declined to comment Monday. “It’s not a good time right now.” Percin, 24, 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.”
  • Firefighter Killed
    TRAVIS TURBYFILL: ‘BIG, HUGE MARINE’ 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, 27, 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 Turby with his two daughters. “Because he’s this big, huge Marine, Hotshot guy, and he has two little girls – reddish-blond curly hair – and they just loved their dad,” he said.
    David Turbyfill, father of firefighter Travis Turbyfill, who was killed fighting the Yarnell Hill Fire, is comforted by his wife, Shari Turbyfill in front of Prescott Fire Station 7 on Monday, July 1, 2013 in Prescott, Ariz.
    David Wallace | AP
    BILLY WARNEKE: ‘DOING WHAT HE LOVED’Billy Warneke, 25, and his wife, Roxanne, were expecting their first child in December, his grandmother, Nancy Warneke, told The Press-Enterprise newspaper in Riverside, Calif. Warneke grew up in Hemet, Calif., along with his fellow Granite Mountain hotshot, Chris MacKenzie. He was a four-year Marine Corps veteran who served a tour in Iraq and had 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 earned an associate of applied science degree in fire science from Pima Community College last year, the school said.
    Harry Warneke is comforted Tuesday at a memorial for 19 elite firefighters including his son, William Warneke, in Prescott, Ariz.
  • Firefighters Killed
    KEVIN WOYJECK: FOLLOWING IN HIS FATHER’S FOOTSTEPSFor Kevin Woyjeck, 21, (pictured with his father) the fire station was a second home. His father, Capt. Joe Woyjeck, is a nearly 30-year veteran of the Los Angeles County 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 Monday outside of the fire station in Seal Beach, Calif., 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 had been 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 parallel to many kids I’ve seen at that age. He wanted to work very hard.” As he spoke, Mora stood before an American flag that had been lowered to half-staff. His own fire badge was covered with a black elastic band, a show of respect and mourning for those lost in the line of duty.This undated photo courtesy of the the Woyjeck family shows firefighter, Kevin Woyjeck, right, and his father, Los Angeles County Fire Capt. Joe Woyjeck. Kevin Woyjeck of Seal Beach, Calif., was one of the 19 Granite Mountain Hotshot Crew, who was killed Sunday evening above the town of Yarnell, northwest of Phoenix in the nation's biggest loss of firefighters in a wildfire in 80 years.
    HONS | AP
  • Firefighters Killed Vignettes
    GARRET ZUPPIGER: A RED BEARD, AND A SENSE OF HUMOR Garret Zuppiger, 27, (pictured) loved to be funny, said Tony Burris, a trainer at a gym where many of the Hotshots worked out. Burris said the two bonded over their manly ginger facial hair. “We both had a red beard and so we would always admire each other’s beards,” he said. “We also had a few conversations about beer.” He earned an Arizona general education curriculum-arts degree in liberal arts from Pima Community College in 2006. Then he went onto the University of Arizona to study business economics, graduating in 2008. “He adjusted pretty well, and seemed very outgoing, well liked and well respected,” said Steve Michel, Zuppiger’s academic adviser. But Zuppiger eventually acknowledged that he wanted more of an outdoor lifestyle, Michel said. “We spent a lot of time talking about how the economics major could apply to that,” he said. Zuppiger’s minor at UA was in English, and he kept a fun and lively blog in the years immediately after he graduated. He wrote about his travels around the West and displayed his sense of humor in items on his grandmother’s one-eyed Chihuahua, his “best hair day ever” and a hike with his mother on Camelback Mountain in Phoenix. There also are photos of a tongue-in-cheek project to build a “ski-chair,” in which a living room recliner was placed atop two skis. “Garret Zuppiger turns 25!” he wrote in a post several years ago. “Everyday is like a gift!!” | AP
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