Fallen Firefighters Mourned at Newport Beach Service

Robert Caldwell and Grant McKee were among 19 Hotshots killed fighting the Yarnell Hill Fire in Arizona

Mourners paid their respects to two of the 19 firefighters killed while fighting the Yarnell Hill Fire in Arizona.

Family and friends bid farewell to Robert Caldwell and Grant McKee, cousins who shared the childhood goal of becoming firefighters, in a service Saturday in Newport Beach.

“They did everything together. They grew up together. They worked together. They died together,” said Grant Scott McKee, McKee’s father. “Five years old, I asked him what he wanted to be and he never changed his mind.”

The two were among the 19 firefighters who died June 30 while battling the Yarnell Hill Fire in Arizona.

McKee, 21, of Costa Mesa, followed in Caldwell’s footsteps, who was a crew leader of the Granite Mountain Hotshots at age 23.

It's a tough job only for elite firefighters, a job Caldwell’s mother admits she never knew was so risky.

“I just can’t believe it,” said Caldwell’s mother, Linda. “Sometimes I feel like I’m in a dream. It’s very hard to accept."

Hotshots don’t just put out fires, they go into remote wild lands like special forces soldiers. They have to climb rough, steep terrain with up to 70 pounds on their backs.

The cousins' ashes will remain in Arizona with the rest of the fallen firefighters.

“Those were his brothers and I could never take him away from that,” McKee said.

The parents find comfort knowing their sons died doing what they loved. They’ll honor them by doing the same.

“What I’m going to do is a lot of the stuff my son had on a bucket list,” Linda Caldwell said. “Everything I do will be done with a purpose.”

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