July 4, 2013

A closer look at the 19 Arizona firefighters who died

The Associated Press

(Continued from page 2)

Brendan McDonough
click image to enlarge

Firefighter Brendan McDonough embraces a mourner at a vigil in Prescott, Ariz., on Tuesday night. McDonough is the sole survivor of the Granite Mountain Hotshot Crew that perished in a raging wildfire Sunday. He was serving as a lookout and relaying key information to his colleagues when the fire trapped and killed them, officials said. McDonough, 21, was in his third season with the Hotshots.

The Associated Press

Related headlines


Back home in Cedar City, Utah, Joe Thurston, 32, used to go to an area reservoir with friends and promptly show how fearless he could be.

"He was definitely one of the daredevil types," longtime friend Scott Goodrich told the Salt Lake Tribune. "We went to Quail (Creek) Reservoir, and we'd be finding 40- to 50-foot cliffs that people would be scared to jump off. He would just show up and be front-flipping off of them."

He brought this bold streak to the Granite Mountain Hotshots.

"He had all the qualities that a firefighter would need to possess," E.J. Overson, another friend, told the Salt Lake City newspaper.


Known as "Turby" among crew members, Travis Turbyfill got a full-time position with the Hotshots when another member's girlfriend asked him to quit.

Turbyfill, 27, often worked out with other Hotshots at Captain Crossfit, a warehouse filled with mats, obstacle courses, climbing walls and acrobatic rings near the firehouse.

Tony Burris, a trainer, said he enjoyed watching Turby with his daughters. "Because he's this big, huge Marine, Hotshot guy, and he has two little girls -- reddish-blond curly hair -- and they just loved their dad," he said.


Billy Warneke, 25, and his wife, Roxanne, were expecting their first child in December, his grandmother, Nancy Warneke, told The Press-Enterprise newspaper in Riverside, Calif.

Warneke grew up in Hemet, Calif., along with his fellow Granite Mountain Hotshot, Chris MacKenzie. A four-year Marine Corps veteran, he had joined the hotshot crew in April.

He earned a degree in fire science from Pima Community College last year, the school said.


Full of heart and determination, Clayton Whitted, 28, might not have been the biggest guy around, but he was among the hardest-working. His former Prescott High School coach, Lou Beneitone, said Whitted was a "wonderful kid" who always had a big smile on his face.

"He was a smart young man with a great personality," said Beneitone. "When he walked into a room, he could really light it up."


For Kevin Woyjeck, 21, the fire station was a second home. His father, Capt. Joe Woyjeck, is a nearly 30-year veteran of the Los Angeles County Fire Department. Keith Mora, an inspector with that agency, said Kevin often accompanied his dad to the station and on ride-alongs.

"He wanted to become a firefighter like his dad and hopefully work hand in hand," Mora said Monday in Seal Beach, Calif., where the Woyjeck family lives.

Mora remembered the younger Woyjeck as a "joy to be around."


Garret Zuppiger, 27, loved to be funny, said Tony Burris, a trainer at a gym where many of the Hotshots worked out.

"We both had a red beard and so we would always admire each other's beards," he said.

Zuppiger earned a liberal arts degree from Pima Community College in 2006 and a business economics degree from the University of Arizona in 2008.

But Zuppiger at last admitted that he wanted more of an outdoor lifestyle, Michel said, noting, "We spent a lot of time talking about how the economics major could apply to that."


Were you interviewed for this story? If so, please fill out our accuracy form

Send question/comment to the editors

Further Discussion

Here at PressHerald.com we value our readers and are committed to growing our community by encouraging you to add to the discussion. To ensure conscientious dialogue we have implemented a strict no-bullying policy. To participate, you must follow our Terms of Use.

Questions about the article? Add them below and we’ll try to answer them or do a follow-up post as soon as we can. Technical problems? Email them to us with an exact description of the problem. Make sure to include:
  • Type of computer or mobile device your are using
  • Exact operating system and browser you are viewing the site on (TIP: You can easily determine your operating system here.)