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By Tammye McDuff
A candlelight tribute to the Prescott 19 was held June 30, 2015 at Fire Station 30 in Cerritos, to commemorate the anniversary and loss of Granite Mountain Hotshots, firefighters and members of the Prescott Fire Department.
On June 30, 2013 a wildfire, now considered the deadliest in Arizona’s state history, began near Yarnell, Arizona due to lightning strikes. The fire consumed approximately 200 homes and other structures in the area of Yarnell, a community of about 600 people.
One of the firefighters Kevin Woyjeck, 21, was the son of a Los Angeles County fire captain, Joe Woyjeck. Kevin was an avid outdoorsman and always wanted to be a firefighter like his father. Captain Woyjeck spoke to his son Sunday, June 28, 2013 by phone, he said, “Dad, we got a fire in Yarnell, Arizona. … I’ll give you a call later,” the elder Woyjeck recalled. Kevin Woyjeck wasn’t the only firefighter’s son in the Granite Mountain crew. Christopher Mackenzie, 30, was the son of retired California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection Captain Mike Mackenzie.
Engineer, Firefighter and EMT Scott Piche, from Station 30 and a Fireman for 18 years, stated the remembrance began with a moment of silence and respect at 4:42 pm, the official time of death of the Prescott 19, with a candle lit for each firefighter. “The loss of a brother is always a difficult situation,” says Piche “but to lose a firefighter that you have worked with and watched grow up, like Woyjeck, was particularly hard. I actually had the privilege of working with four of the men.”
It was reported that the firefighters had deployed their fire shelters, an aluminum blanket that protects against the flames and heat, and a measure of last resort. Killed in the fire were Andrew Ashcraft, 29; Robert Caldwell, 23; Travis Carter, 31; Dustin Deford, 24; Christopher Mackenzie, 30; Grant McKee, 21; Sean Misner, 26; Scott Norris, 28; Wade Parker, 22; John Percin, 24; Anthony Rose, 23; Jesse Steed, 36; Joe Thurston, 32; Travis Turbyfill, 27; William Warneke, 25; Clayton Whitted, 28; Kevin Woyjeck, 21; and Garret Zuppiger, 27.
Roy Hall, Incident Commander with the State Forestry Division commented, “We have a lot of hotshot crews in the nation, and they are the elite of the ground firefighters. They’re highly trained and highly specialized. They are a younger generation. That’s the tragedy of it, that lives would be lost of such a young group.”
“As is protocol,” stated Piche, “one member of the crew will stand back as a watcher, to let the others on the line know what is happening.” This member of the team remains anonymous. He radioed ahead to let the crew know the fire was approaching and to retreat. He saw the flames engulf his brothers. Prescott Fire Chief Dan Fraijo commented “There are very few words to express that kind of sorrow.” The fire was considered the deadliest day for firefighters since the 9/11 attacks.
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