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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