by Dan Nowicki, The Arizona Republic
- -Some of the 19 firefighters hailed from firefighting families
- -Several were Marines
- -The Yarnell Hill Fire began Friday and spread Sunday when the firefighters were killed
PRESCOTT, Ariz. -- Portraits of the 19 Prescott, Ariz., firefighters killed in the Yarnell Hill Fire emerged Monday as a grieving Arizona saluted their service and struggled to come to grips with the scope of the tragedy.
Some of the fallen members of the elite Granite Mountain Hotshots, 14 of whom were still in their 20s, hailed from firefighting families. Another young firefighter joined the team after his mother's cancer death. One balanced his passions of firefighting and ministry. Two others were cousins. Several were Marines.
At least three of the men who died have babies on the way.
The firefighters' bodies were recovered and taken Monday to the Maricopa County Medical Examiner in Phoenix in a solemn caravan of white vans that was met by the Phoenix Police Honor Guard, a large American flag and two fire ladders stretched across the street.
The Yarnell blaze nearly annihilated the elite 20-member squad in the worst firefighting death toll in a wildfire since the Griffith Park Fire killed more than 25 volunteer firefighters in Los Angeles in 1933.
Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer called the deaths "unbearable" and vowed to honor the service of the firefighters who died and "do whatever is necessary to bring this fire under control, before it causes any more hardship."
"Nineteen lives were lost - brave men who gave their lives to defend friends, neighbors and perfect strangers," Brewer said. "The Yarnell fire is the deadliest wildfire in Arizona state history and our nation's deadliest in 80 years. To friends and family of those lost yesterday (Sunday), I know we can never fully repay the sacrifices made by your loved ones."
The deaths prompted a dramatic public outpouring around the state. Makeshift memorials appeared at the hotshot crew's engine house and elsewhere around Yavapai County. A memorial was held at Prescott's Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and a vigil was held in downtown Phoenix.
Family: Husband of Juliann Ashcraft, father of four.
Hometown and residence: Prescott, Ariz.
Affiliations: Graduate of Prescott High School.
Remembered: "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," said Lou Beneitone, who recently retired after 41 years with Prescott High School.
Beneitone said athletic prowess was a must for the hotshots.
"That's what it takes," he said. "You gotta be very physically fit, and you gotta like it, gotta like the hard work."
Family: Cousin of Granite Mountain Hotshots firefighter Grant McKee.
Family: Husband of Krista Carter; father of Brayden, 6, and Brielle, 3.
Residence: Paulden, Ariz.
Hometown: Born in Arizona; grew up in Kirkland.
Affiliations: Member of the Prescott Hotshots before joining the Granite Mountain crew.
Remembered: Carter's wife of six years, Krista, spoke about him Monday night:
"If there was anybody that anyone would want to protect their homes, it would be that crew. They'd been doing it for so long; they were perfect at what they did.
"He loved his kids more than anything. That's what he lived for, seeing them happy and having family time. He loved being outdoors. It was his passion."
They met while she was working at a cosmetic counter at Dillard's.
"He just came up and talked to me," she said. "Everybody said it wasn't like him because he was incredibly shy. He still did not have an answer as to why he did it, to this day.
"He had a heart of gold. He was one of those people who would do anything for anybody, whether he knew them his whole life or met them five minutes before."
Hometown: Ekalaka, Mont.
Affiliations: Cornerstone Bible Institute, Hot Springs, S.D.
Family: Son of former Moreno Valley (Calif.) Fire Department Capt. Mike MacKenzie, who now lives in Tennessee, according to the (Riverside) Press-Enterprise.
Hometown: Hemet, Calif.
Affiliations: 2001 graduate of Hemet High School; member of the Hemet Fire Department; attended Mt. San Jacinto College; worked for the U.S. Forest Service.
Remembered: MacKenzie "lived life to the fullest ... and was fighting fire just like his dad," longtime friend Dav Fulford-Brown told the Riverside Press-Enterprise in California. "He was finishing his credentials to get promoted and loved the people. It's an insane tragedy."
Family: Married. Son of John and Jane Marsh, also of Prescott, according to the JeffersonPost.
Hometown: Ashe County, N.C.
Affiliations: Graduate of Ashe Central High School and Appalachian State University, according to the Jefferson (N.C.) Post. Pi Lamda Phi fraternity tweeted that Marsh was a founding father of the NC Omega Tau 1990 chapter.
Remembered: "He was just a leader and he enjoyed what he was doing," said his uncle, Gary Marsh, 59, of Jefferson, N.C. "He loved life. He was just a fine young man."
Like many, Gary Marsh is still struggling to come to terms with what happened.
"It's just shock," he said. "We can't believe it."
Role on hotshot crew: Superintendent.
Grant Quinn McKee
Family: Linda Caldwell, Prescott; Marcia McKee, Newport Beach, Calif., are relatives.
Home state: California.
Affiliations: Member of Prescott Disc Golf Club on Facebook; graduated Newport Harbor High School.
Family: Husband to Amanda Misner, who is pregnant with the couple's first child, a son to be named Jaxon, due in late August or early September. A memorial fund has been established to help with the child's education. Visit the Sean Misner Memorial Facebook page for more details. Son of Ronald and Tammy Misner.
Hometown: Santa Ynez, Calif.
Affiliations: 2005 graduate of Santa Ynez High School, where he played baseball and football and ran track; attended Santa Barbara City College.
Remembered: Jason Lambert of Santa Ynez, Calif., was the best man at Misner's wedding last fall and has known him since they were 7. Misner was to be his best man when Lambert gets married this October.
Lambert said Misner was a hard worker who dreamed of becoming a firefighter. Misner's grandfather was a fire chief in Montecito, Calif., he said, and his uncle and cousin also are firefighters.
"He had firefighting in his blood," Lambert said. "It didn't matter what he was doing, he was doing it 110 percent."
Affiliations: Part-time worker at Bucky O'Neill Guns in Prescott.
Remembered: "Here in Arizona, the gun shops are a lot like barbershops," said Prescott resident William O'Hara. "Sometimes you don't go in there to buy anything at all, you just go to talk. 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."
Family: Son of Capt. Dan Parker of the Chino Valley (Ariz.) Fire District.
Hometown: Chino Valley.
Affiliations: Graduate of Chino Valley High School, where he played baseball and football.
Remembered: The Chino Valley Fire District posted this statement Monday: "The Chino Valley Fire Family has experienced a tremendous loss with the death of the son of one of our Captains. We grieve with the family and express our deepest sympathy for this tragic loss."
Role on hotshot crew: Co-captain.
John Percin Jr.
Family: Survived by his mother and father, an older brother and a younger brother.
Hometown: West Linn, Ore.
Remembered: Percin's family issued a statement Monday: "John was a brave and courageous man who never hesitated to put others before himself.
"He was loved by many, and he will always be remembered. He is an inspiration to us all. Our thoughts and prayers go out to all of his fallen brothers and their families."
Family: His partner, Tiffany, is in her third trimester with the couple's first daughter, a girl, according to a family friend, Phyllis Barney, of Glendale, Ariz.
Home state: Illinois.
Remembered: Barney describes him as "a really sweet young man. Just a good guy. I don't think he had an enemy in the world. He loved children," she said, her voice breaking. "He was going to make an absolutely incredible daddy."
Affiliations: Member of the Crown King Fire Department.
Family: Husband of Desiree Steed, father of Caden, 4, and Cambria, 3; brother of Cassidy Steed, Taunya Steed and Levi Federwisch.
Residence: Prescott Valley, Ariz.
Home state: Utah.
Affiliations: Served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1996-2000; member of the Prescott Fire Department, 2000-2002. Joined Granite Mountain Hotshots in 2003.
Remembered: Brother Levi Federwisch said Monday: "All the guys looked up to Jesse."
Role on hotshot crew: Captain.
Family: Husband to Marsena and two young sons.
Residence: Prescott Valley.
Hometown: Cedar City, Utah.
Affiliations: 1999 graduate of Cedar City High School; attended Southern Utah University.
Family: Husband of Stephanie Turbyfill; father of Brynley Elizabeth Turbyfill, 19 months; Brooklyn Elizabeth Turbyfill, 2 (turns 3 this month); son of Colleen Turbyfill and David Turbyfill.
Affiliations: Graduate of Prescott High School; attended Yavapai College; served in the United States Marine Corps. He started his firefighting career working for the U.S. Forest Service in 2005.
Remembered: Lifelong friend and fellow firefighter Jeffrey Archer of Prescott Valley said Monday that nobody could ever say anything bad about Turbyfill.
"He was the most selfless guy you could know," Archer said. "He would give you the shirt off of his back."
Archer said he and Turbyfill were in diapers together and that their moms were best friends. He said he and Turbyfill loved to hunt together and spend time in the outdoors. He said Turbyfill loved off-road racing.
"Our wives were pregnant together," Archer said. "She's tore up. His mother's tore up. Everybody is tore up."
Mark Goliogoski, athletic director and dean of students at Prescott High School, had Travis in history class. Goliogoski described Turbyfill as "one of the funniest people I've ever met."
Family: Married to Roxanne and was expecting his first child in December. Brother Fred Warneke is a Navy SEAL in San Diego and his sister is in the Coast Guard.
Residence: Avra Valley, Ariz.
Hometown: Hemet, Calif.
Affiliations: Served in the Marine Corps for four years, including a tour in Iraq; 2012 graduate of Pima Community College.
Remembered: "Even though it's a tragedy for the whole family, he was doing what he loved to do," his grandmother Nancy Warneke told the Riverside, Calif., Press-Enterprise. "He loved nature and was helping preserve nature."
"Both Billy and Fred had the mentality of being part of special operations, no matter what branch of the military they went into," Master Sgt. Edward Brackins, Hemet High ROTC instructor, told Hemet's Valley Chronicle. "They're scrappy - they don't quit. My hat's off to their parents who made them strong-minded and physically strong."
Family: Husband of Kristi Whitted.
Hometown and residence: Prescott.
Affiliations: Prescott High School graduate; member of the Heights Church in Prescott.
Remembered: "A great kid. A hard worker. Always had a smile on his face all the time," said Lou Beneitone, who recently retired after 41 years from Prescott High School. Beneitone coached Whitted on the school's football team and had him in class.
"I saw (Whitted) two months ago," Beneitone said. "He was here training. And the minute I recognize him, I saw that smile coming down the breezeway.
"He talked about the upcoming season and talked about it being a rough one because of the drought. I shook his hand, and I gave him a hug and said, 'Be careful out there.' And he says, 'I will, Coach.' "
"He was very passionate about what he did whether it was firefighting or ministering," said Bob Hoyt of the Heights Church. "He was a very godly man. He was a servant. When he was moved to do something, he threw himself into it."
Family: Son of Los Angeles County Fire Department Capt. Joe Woyjeck.
Hometown: Seal Beach, Calif.
Affiliations: Care Ambulance Service in Orange, Calif.; studied at Santa Ana College in Santa Ana, Calif.
Remembered: "Right out of high school, Kevin was laser focused on becoming a firefighter," said Bill Weston, director of operations at Care Ambulance Service in Orange, Calif. "He worked here as an EMT."
Weston said many ambulance employees know Woyjeck's father, Los Angeles County Fire Department Capt. Joe Woyjeck. He said they watched Kevin grow from a toddler, determined to follow in his father's footsteps.
Weston choked back tears while talking about Kevin's dedication.
"If your family ever called 911 and Kevin showed up, then you would be very comfortable having Kevin there to take care of your relative," Weston said.
Affiliations: Family members declined to speak with a reporter Monday. He attended the University of Arizona. A blog that Zuppiger apparently maintained until early 2011 showed he enjoyed traveling, especially throughout the West and to places where he could explore the outdoors. He also liked motorcycle riding.
Remembered: Zuppiger's neighbor Frank Morrison, 65, a disabled veteran, remembered him tenderly.
"He was always, always willing to lend a helping hand," Morrison said. "He would come over here because I do have certain physical challenges, and he would say, 'Frank, is there anything I can do for you?' 'No, Garret, thank you very much.' He was always thinking of the next guy, never himself."
Contributing: Robert Anglen, Brandon Brown, Lindsey Collom, Peter Corbett, Scott Craven, Kristina Goetz, Brenna Goth, Saba Hamedy, David Madrid, Ryan Randazzo, Catherine Reagor, Anne Ryman, Rebekah Sanders and Zach St. George, The Arizona Republic; and The Associated Press.