Three firefighters from Southern California were among 19 killed Sunday as they were overcome by fire during the attack on a 13-square-mile wildfire northwest of Phoenix.
Kevin Woyjeck, the son of LA County Fire Capt. Joe Woyjeck, was killed Sunday when the fire overcame the members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots, according to the Los Angeles County Fire Department. He was 21.
With tears in his eyes and his voice quavering, Chief Daryl L. Osby, with County of Los Angeles Fire Department, remembered his colleague's 21-year-old son.
“It truly breaks my heart that I stand here and speak on behalf of my profession and my department, and on behalf of the Woyjeck family,” Osby said at a news conference Monday evening.
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“But I also have some solace that Kevin was doing what he truly enjoyed and that was being a firefighter and helping others.”
Woyjeck’s friends and colleagues described a young man who was “fun to be around” and “a little bit of a prankster,” said Bill Weston, director of operations.
“In 21 years, he got a lot of life in,” Weston said.
Woyjeck started out as a Fire Explorer, a training mentorship program, and worked as an emergency medical technician.
"He was doing everything he could to become a professional firefighter -- he had an extreme work ethic," said Keith Mora, LA County fire inspector. "He was a great great kid. I say kid, but he was a young man at 21 years old."
Chris MacKenzie, of Hemet, also was killed in the fire fight, his uncle confirmed to NBC4. He was 30.
MacKenzie graduated Hemet High School in 2001 and joined the U.S. Forest Service.
When he was a teenager, MacKenzie lost 75 pounds, in part, so he could follow his father's footsteps as a firefighter.
"He really enjoyed it. He loved fighting fire," his mother Laurie Goralski said.
A second Hemet High School graduate was identified Monday afternoon as the third fire victim from Southern California.
William "Billy" Warneke, 25, is survived by his wife, his highschool sweetheart who is expecting their first child in December, his grandparents said.
Home videos show a young Warneke donning firefighting gear and climbing ladders into trees, pretending he was battling a blaze.
The father-to-be served in the Marines for four years, including on a deployment to Iraq, his grandparents said.
Also killed in the fire was Sean Misner, 26, of Santa Barbara County. Misner is survived by his wife, who is pregnant, according to NBC affiliate KSBY.
The bodies of the 19 victims were transported Monday from the mountain on which they died. Prescott Fire Chief Dan Fraijo said Monday that all 19 were members of the Hotshots.
Previous statements indicated 18 of the men were members of the elite firefighting team found late Sunday afternoon with their emergency shelters deployed. The bodies were discovered near Yarnell, a small community about 85 miles northwest of Phoenix.
The fire destroyed at least 200 homes and burned more than 13 square miles.
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