Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

7/2/2013 (9 months ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Members included fathers, athletes and students

When a terrible tragedy strikes, survivors try to place a face, story and life behind a name listed online or in the newspaper. When all 19 members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots were killed in a wildfire north of Phoenix, one of the worst U.S. fire fatalities on record, friends and family came forward to remember the brave men who died in the line of duty.

Arizona Hotshot 27-year-old Garret Zuppiger loved to be funny, a trainer at a gym where many of the Hotshots worked out recalled.

Arizona Hotshot 27-year-old Garret Zuppiger loved to be funny, a trainer at a gym where many of the Hotshots worked out recalled.

Article Highlights

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

7/2/2013 (9 months ago)

Published in U.S.

Keywords: Arizona Hotshots, fire crews, Arizona, wildfire, death


LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - A high school physical education teacher recalled 29-year-old firefighter Andrew Ashcraft as especially athletically inclined. "He had some athletic ability in him, and he was a go-getter, too. You could pretty much see, from young freshman all the way, he was going to be physically active." He's survived by his wife and four children.

Twenty-three-year-old Robert Caldwell was recalled as the smart man in the bunch. "He was really smart. He had a good sense of humor," a coworker said.

His cousin, Grant McKee, also was one of the Hotshots killed Sunday. "Both of these boys were only interested in having a family life. Robert was newly married, and Grant was engaged. They just wanted the house and the dog," their aunt said.

Thirty-one-year-old Travis Carter was known as the strongest one on the crew - but also the most humble. "No one could beat him," trainer Janine Pereira said. "But the thing about him was he would never brag about it. He would just kill everyone and then go and start helping someone else finish."

A firefighter since he turned 18, 24-year-old Dustin DeFord started as a volunteer in tiny Ekalaka, Montana. His father, the Rev. Steve DeFord, said the outpouring of support there has been unbelievable. "We've got enough food in the house to last a year," he said.

An avid snowboarder, 30-year-old Chris MacKenzie, 30, grew up in California's San Jacinto Valley, where he was a 2001 graduate of Hemet High School and a former member of the town's fire department. He had followed his father into firefighting.

In addition, 43-year-old Eric Marsh was an avid mountain biker who grew up in Ashe County, N.C., but became hooked on firefighting while studying biology at Arizona State University. Marsh was superintendent of the Hotshot crew and the oldest of the 19 who died.

Especially troubling are the firefighters who left unfinished business among the living. Twenty-six-year old Sean Misner left behind a wife who is seven months pregnant.

"He played with tremendous heart and desire," Gruendyke said. "He wasn't the biggest or fastest guy on the team, but he played with great emotion and intensity."

Twenty-eight-year-old Scott Norris was known around Prescott through his part-time job at Bucky O'Neill Guns. "He was the kind of guy who if he dated your daughter, you'd be OK with it," a former customer recalled. "He was just a model of a young, ideal American gentleman."

At 22, Wade Parker had just joined the Hotshots team. Retired Prescott Fire Department Capt. Jeff Knotek, who had known Wade since he was "just a little guy."

"He was another guy who wanted to be a second generation firefighter," Knotek said. "Big, athletic kid who loved it, aggressive, assertive and in great shape."

In his aunt's eyes, 24-year-old John Percin Jr. was, simply, an "amazing young man." Percin was a multisport high school athlete who graduated in 2007 from West Linn High School, southeast of Portland.

Twenty-three-year-old Anthony Rose was one of the youngest victims. He grew up in Wisconsin and previously worked as a firefighter in nearby Crown King before moving on to become a Hotshot.

Jesse Steed's former colleagues remember him as a joker. "He was a character. If you look at all the old photos of him, he was doing things to make people laugh," Cooper Carr says, who worked with the 36-year-old Steed in the Hotshots from 2001 to 2003.

"He was good at impressions, and he sang songs; he was just great for morale. He'd just talk in a funny voice and have us all in stitches," Carr said. "And he was strong as an ox."

Back home in Cedar City, Utah, 32-year-old 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." Thurston brought this bold streak to the Granite Mountain Hotshots.

Known as "Turby" among crew members, 27-year-old Travis Turbyfill got a full-time position with the Hotshots when another member's girlfriend asked him to quit. A trainer said he enjoyed watching Turby with his two daughters.

Growing up in Hemet, California, 25-year-old Billy Warneke was expecting their first child in December. He was a four-year Marine Corps veteran who served a tour in Iraq and had joined the hotshot crew in April, buying a property in Prescott, near where his sister lived, according to newspaper reports.

Full of heart and determination, 28-year-old Clayton Whitted might not have been the biggest guy around, but he was among the hardest-working. His former Prescott High School coach 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, just a wonderful personality," said Beneitone. "When he walked into a room, he could really light it up."

For 21-year-old 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.

With his flaming red beard, 27-year-old Garret Zuppiger, loved to be funny, a trainer at a gym where many of the Hotshots worked out recalled. We both had a red beard and so we would always admire each other's beards," he said. "We also had a few conversations about beer."

Zuppiger's humor was evident on his blog, where he wrote about his grandmother's one-eyed Chihuahua, his "best hair day ever" and a hike with his mother on Camelback Mountain in Phoenix. "Garret Zuppiger turns 25!" he wrote in a post several years ago. "Everyday is like a gift!!"

---


Pope Francis calls for your 'Prayer and Action'


© 2014 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for March 2014
Respect for Women:
That all cultures may respect the rights and dignity of women.
Vocations: That many young people may accept the Lordís invitation to consecrate their lives to proclaiming the Gospel.



Comments


More U.S.

Ron Paul warns Feds may stage 'Waco styled' raid Watch

Image of Cliven Bundy has been fighting with the Bureau of Land Management for 20 years over his cattle and grazing rights.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

While Cliven Bundy, his family, their supporters, and myriad militiamen forced federal agents from the Bureau of Land Management to back off of the Bundy's Nevada ranch and release hundreds of captured cattle, one politician warns that the feds could be planning ... continue reading


What does this say about America? More people getting food stamps than women working full-time Watch

Image of There were only 15,678,000 women who worked full-time, year-round in the United States in 1969.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

It's a distressing figure that shines a most unflattering light on affairs here in the United States. According to recent statistics, those  participating in the food stamp program, or SNAP outnumbered the number of women who worked full-time, year-round ... continue reading


Palm/Passion Sunday: Will We Make This Week Holy By Encountering Jesus Christ? Watch

Image of Holy Week invites us to let go of self and embrace the Lord Jesus anew through saying Yes to the invitation to continuing conversion. How desperately we all need to hear the Good news that we can begin again!

By Deacon Keith Fournier

Palm/ Passion Sunday: Make This Holy Week a Deep Encounter With Jesus Christ!During this week called Holy, the Lord Jesus is extending His saving Hand to each one of us anew. The timeless one has broken into time and now transforms it from within. The question is ... continue reading


Living Among the Pharisees Watch

Image of Christ Before the High Priest

By Deal W. Hudson

I will not quote directly from the article - there is no need to infect readers with the Phariseeism pervading Ruse's psychological/spiritual analysis of Thomas Williams. The readers can judge for themselves. I've been the target of similar, and worse, ... continue reading


Suffering, Struggle and the Christian Revolution Watch

Image of

By Deacon Keith Fournier

The Christian tradition instructs us that even undeserved and unmerited suffering, when joined in love to the sufferings of Jesus Christ, can produce extraordinary fruit within us - and then through us, as we change. This is a part of the teaching on the mystery ... continue reading


Time for a Movement Rooted in the Real Social Doctrine of the Church Watch

Image of

By Deacon Keith Fournier

Christian social teaching challenges any notion of human freedom which begins and ends with the isolated, atomistic, person as the measure of its application. We are by nature and grace called to relationship. Only in communion can we become fully human and find ... continue reading


Nevada cattle rancher has won fight with feds -- for now Watch

Image of Clive Bundy claims his herd of roughly 900 cattle have grazed on the land along the riverbed near Bunkerville, 80 miles northeast of Las Vegas, since 1870.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

For the time being, Nevada cattle rancher Cliven Bundy has appeared to have won his week-long battle with the federal government. His case has spurred nationwide attention, and has garnered protestors rallying for his rights.  LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic ... continue reading


Is Pope Francis Opening the Possibility of Ordaining Mature, Proven Married Men to Priesthood Watch

Image of

By Deacon Keith Fournier

The prophetic witness of voluntary, consecrated celibacy has endured beyond the ranks of celibate clergy. It is also preserved in the inspired vowed life of monastic orders and the sacrificial witness of religious men and women. In addition, in many of the ... continue reading


We Lost True North: The Epidemic of Violence in the U.S. Not Caused by Guns or Knives Watch

Image of

By Deacon Keith Fournier

A High School and an Army Base; places which should be known as places of safety, were turned into killing fields.  A Nation pauses, grieves and seeks to make sense of what seems to be a growing epidemic of violence. Efforts to point to guns as the cause of ... continue reading


Militias rally for fight with federal agents Watch

Image of The standoff turned violent within the week of April 7, bringing two decades of land disputes to a head.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Tensions have increased in Nevada after armed citizens from several different militia organizations arrived on the ranch of Cliven Bundy to support the besieged rancher. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The ranch, just 80 miles northeast of Las Vegas, has been the ... continue reading


All U.S. News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Isaiah 50:4-9
4 Lord Yahweh has given me a disciple's tongue, for ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 69:8-10, 21-22, 31, 33-34
8 I am estranged from my brothers, alienated from my ... Read More

Gospel, Matthew 26:14-25
14 Then one of the Twelve, the man called Judas ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for April 16th, 2014 Image

St. Bernadette
April 16: On April 16, 1879, Bernadette -- or Sister Marie-Bernard, as she ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter