Seal Beach Firefighter Called Father Before Dying in Arizona Wildfire

Firefighter Kevin Woyjeck called his father before heading out to the Arizona wildfire that killed him and 18 members of his crew.

By Hetty Chang and Willian Avila
|  Tuesday, Jul 2, 2013  |  Updated 8:14 PM PDT
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The family of a Seal Beach man who died in the Arizona wildfire Sunday said they are learning things about 21-year-old Kevin Woyjeck they never knew. The family spoke out before they left to Arizona to join other families who are grieving of the loss of the firefighters. Hetty Chang reports from Seal Beach for the NBC4 News at 6 p.m. on July 2, 2013.

Hetty Chang

The family of a Seal Beach man who died in the Arizona wildfire Sunday said they are learning things about 21-year-old Kevin Woyjeck they never knew. The family spoke out before they left to Arizona to join other families who are grieving of the loss of the firefighters. Hetty Chang reports from Seal Beach for the NBC4 News at 6 p.m. on July 2, 2013.

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Firefighter Called Dad Before Dying in Arizona Blaze

Firefighter Kevin Woyjeck called his father before heading out to the Arizona wildfire that killed him and 18 members of his crew. Hetty Chang reports for the NBC4 News at noon on Tuesday, July 2, 2013.

Memorial for Fallen Firefighters in Arizona

People gathered in the town of Prescott Arizona Monday night to say goodbye to 19 firefighters killed while fighting a wildfire on Sunday. Robert Kovacik reports from Arizona for the NBC4 News at 11 p.m. on July 1, 2013.
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Joe Woyjeck was asleep when his phone rang at 6:45 a.m. Sunday. It was his firefighter son, Kevin, calling to alert him that he was on his way to a big wildfire in Yarnell, Ariz.

“We’re on our way there. I won’t have cell service, so I’ll call you tonight,” Kevin Woyjeck told his father.

But that call never came.

Kevin Woyjeck, 21, and 18 other members of his firefighting crew were killed Sunday when they were overcome by the blaze northeast of Phoenix. It was one of the deadliest days in U.S. history for firefighters battling a wildfire.

As Joe Woyjeck, a Los Angeles County Fire captain, started heading from his Seal Beach home for Arizona on Tuesday, he proudly remembered his son as a young man who wanted to follow in his footsteps and was on his way to becoming a great firefighter.

“I wasn't the dad pushing him, going, ‘Hey, you need to be a firefighter.’ That was his goal, that’s what he wanted to do since he was a little kid,” Woyjeck said. “As a father, I'm absolutely thoroughly impressed. I challenge any other 21-year-old’s resume to his. He will be truly missed.”

Kevin Woyjeck became an EMT while he was still in high school and had just joined the elite Granite Mountain Hotshots crew in April.

But Woyjeck is also remembered for his kind acts. On his way home, he would often give a Seal Beach homeless man anything he had in his car that was useful, whether it was food or a blanket.

To his sister, he was the big brother who never said no.

“He just encompassed people with love and affection, and smiles and laughter,” said Woyjeck’s sister, Maddie. “I’m going to miss him a lot.”

Wearing his son's favorite baseball cap with his initials, ”K.W.,” written on the front, Woyjeck said he will be wearing it in Arizona in memory of his son. 

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