Granite Mountain Interagency Hotshots Crew
Andrew Ashcraft, 29
Andrew Sterling Ashcraft was born on February 15, 1984, to parents Deborah Pfingston and Thomas Ashcraft in Orange, California. At the age of five, Andrew moved to Prescott with his family, where he spent the next 24 years of his life with his brother, Thomas James (T.J.) Ashcraft II, and his sister, Shelby Laura Pfingston.
Growing up in Prescott, Andrew attended Abia Judd Elementary School, Mile High Middle School, and graduated from Prescott High School in 2003. It was at Prescott High that he met the love of his life, Juliann Crockett Ashcraft. The two were married on July 22, 2006, in Prescott, and have four children: Ryder Sterling (6), Shiloh (4), Tate Andrew (2), and Choice Crockett (18 months).
Andrew became a member of the Granite Mountain Hot Shots in 2011, and was awarded the “Rookie of the Year” honors for that fire season. He loved every second of his time on the crew and had dreamt of being a firefighter since he was a boy. Andrew was known for his contagious smile, his heart of gold, his genuinely kind spirit, and for loving his mustache. He was an active member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Most importantly, he was a loving husband, a tender father and a friend to all.
Robert Caldwell, 23
“I’d rather die in my boots than live in a suit.” Robert Caldwell lived by these words and was always a man true to his word. He died with honor, with his brothers, in the line of duty with his boots tight on his feet. Compassionate, sensitive, and never afraid to show his true emotions to those he loved and held close to his heart, Robert was unquestionably the most amazing husband, son, brother, father, and friend. He is survived by his wife, Claire; son, Zion; his mother and father, Dave and Linda Caldwell; and his sister, Taylor Caldwell.
His wife, Claire, says, “I am fortunate to be Robert’s wife. While I didn’t have him in my life long enough, each moment that we shared was a blessing. The night we met, we knew it in our hearts that we were soul mates. We had known each other for a thousand years before and would know each other for another thousand years. Robert was the kind of man every man strives to be—he was the husband every woman dreams of and a father a child could look up to. We were all so blessed to have him in our lives, and I will carry him in my heart for the rest of my life. There simply aren’t enough words to explain the love and gratitude I feel for him.”
Travis Carter, 31
Travis Carter was born on August 7, 1982, in Prescott, Arizona, to Tripp Carter and Glenna Eckel. As a little boy, he loved to work on the Necktie Ranch in Walnut Grove with his dad, Trip Carter, and grandpa, Arden Carter. He rode tractors, played in the snow, and loved Christmas time with his extended family at the ranch. As he grew older, Travis began to become a real help on the ranch and, according to his dad, he was a good hand and worked, branded, and shipped cattle, drove the large equipment, and was a great horse shoer.
Approaching high school, Travis was an outstanding athlete and, in 2000, began school at Orme in Dewey, Arizona, where he played football and was an all-state, all-conference football player. He scored 16 touchdowns his senior year as tailback. Married in 2005 to Krista Smalley, the couple has two children, Brayden and Brielle.
His firefighting career began in 2005, where he worked for the Prescott National Forest as a hotshot and worked on the Rodeo-Chediski Fire and many others until 2009. In 2009 he was chosen to be among the elite Granite Mountain Hot Shots crew through the City of Prescott. In 2009, the city received a grant from FEMA for firefighting, which provided a full-time career for each member of the crew. Their job was, in the off season, to trim brush and limbs to protect the areas in and around Prescott. They are known as Prescott’s Finest and were professionals with a great deal of training.
Travis has said that one of his favorite places on earth is the fishing pond at the ranch. His family is grateful to the Lord for Travis’ life and for the time they had with him. He will be greatly missed, but know he is finally home with the Lord, whom he loved.
Dustin DeFord, 24
Dustin James DeFord, 24, was born December 13, 1988, in Baltimore, Maryland, to Steve and Celeste (Crago) DeFord. Dustin joined brothers Brandon, Darren, Jonathan, and Ryan. Later, Kenton, Stephen, Rebecca, Nathaniel, and Heidi completed the family. The family moved to Columbus, Montana, in 1990 and later to Ekalaka, Montana, in 1996.
Like his siblings, Dustin was homeschooled through elementary and high school, graduating in 2007. He attended Cornerstone Bible Institute in Hot Springs, South Dakota, graduating in 2010. Dustin decisively put his trust in Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior as a young boy. In 2011, he took a short-term mission trip to Northern Alberta, Canada. Through college and after, Dustin worked for the Carter County Fire and Mitigation crew in Ekalaka. His ambition was to be a hotshot firefighter, so he was thrilled when he was accepted with the Granite Mountain Hot Shots.
Dustin was the “life of the party” at any gathering of friends or family. He loved entertaining with his goofy humor, hunting, spotlighting, espresso coffee, noise of any kind, social life, and life in general. He could be seen reading his Bible every morning.
Dustin is survived by his parents, Steve and Celeste DeFord; seven brothers, SSgt Brandon DeFord, Jonathan and Rachel (Anderson) DeFord, Darren and Becky (King) DeFord, Ryan DeFord, Kenton DeFord, Stephen DeFord, and Nathaniel Deford; two sisters, Rebecca DeFord and Heidi DeFord; one nephew, Tucker DeFord; three nieces, Sage DeFord, April DeFord, and Samantha DeFord; grandparents, Lyle and Emily DeFord and Bill and Flo Crago; and too many aunts, uncles, and cousins to list.
Christopher MacKenzie, 30
Christopher Alan MacKenzie was born on September 12, 1982, in Fontana, California. Chris lived in San Bernardino for three years and then moved to Hemet, California. Chris attended Hemet, Whittier, and Valle Vista Elementary, Dartmouth Middle School, and Hemet High School, where he graduated in 2001.
As a boy, his sense of adventure began to get ahold of him, and he hungered to be active. It was in high school that Chris thrived. There wasn’t a student that didn’t know him. He never was part of any clique; he knew and had friends in nearly all walks of life. Football became his passion, and he played all four years in high school.
After high school, Chris developed a passion for snowboarding and moved to Big Bear, California, where he worked seasonally on a snow blowing crew and eventually as a snowboard instructor.
Before working for the Prescott, Arizona, Fire Department, Chris worked for the Bureau of Land Management on engine and helicopter crews and for the U.S. Forest Service on engine and hotshot crews.
In 2010, Chris was invited by one of his former captains to apply to the Granite Mountain Hotshots. In January 2013, Chris started his third season as a lead crew member with the Granite Mountain Hotshots out of the Prescott City Fire Department in Arizona.
The testament of Chris’s life was not so much in the moments of his journey but more told in the manner in which he lived them. Chris lived his life to the fullest and went places most people dream about. He loved to travel and explore the outdoors. He loved fighting wildfires and told his brother that he saw it as a way to see the most beautiful country in America. But most of all, Chris loved to be with his friends. He cultivated his friendships and received his firefighting teammates as true brothers.
Chris is survived by his father, Michael MacKenzie; mother, Laurie Goralski; brother, Aaron MacKenzie; stepmother, Janice MacKenzie; and stepsisters, Janae Gier and Jill Allison.
On behalf of Chris’s extended family, we all say that Chris never let the negativity of this world get to him. He loved and lived life with a full heart. As his life and career reveal, he embraced the responsibilities of a man, all while maintaining the fun loving heart of a child. Chris’s attitude was infectious; you wanted to be around him, and he would make you laugh. Chris absolutely loved his family, and they loved him.
Eric Marsh, 43
A loving husband and dedicated son, Eric Shane Marsh was born and raised in the mountains of North Carolina. He graduated with honors from Ashe Central High, where he was a running back on the football team. He graduated from Appalachian State with a degree as a biologist/naturalist and worked and excelled at several jobs, but the one he really loved was wildland firefighting. He worked for several years with the Globe hot shots out of Tonto National Forest.
Eric had a great love for the outdoors. He was a rock and ice climber who proposed to his wife on an ice climbing trip to Ouray, Colorado. He was also an equestrian with a great love for his horse, “Shorty,” a skier and member of the ski patrol at Sunrise Mountain, a fisherman, motorcyclist, and avid cyclist and mountain biker. He competed in endurance mountain bike races and recently completed a 24-hour mountain bike race as a part of a four-person relay team. He and a friend made a pact to compete in the next 24-hour race as solo competitors.
Eric was also a talented tile setter, stone mason, and gifted welder/fabricator. He joined the City of Prescott in 2003 as part of the fuels management crew and worked to build a city-sponsored wildland team. He was an instrumental part of the Granite Mountain Hot Shots organization.
He helped start the Arizona Wildfire Academy (from his living room), where he taught basic firefighting, squad boss, and leadership classes. He liked to say that working on the crew “turned boys into men.” He was so well known for his quotes and sayings that his crew wrote down his “Eric-isms.”
Eric’s wife, Amanda, and his parents, John and Jane, want Eric remembered as a compassionate, good-hearted, loyal, and generous man of integrity who loved his family, his life, and being a Granite Mountain Hot Shot.
Brendan McDonough - Surviving member
Brendan is the lone survivor of the Yarnell Hill fire tragedy of 2013. Today he is a public speaker and works with numerous nonprofits for veterans, police officers, firefighters, and emergency medical services. He lives in Prescott, Arizona.
McDonough is an uplifting speaker, whose courage to find support at his weakest has inspired others to find their own tribes of support. Building a sense of brotherhood within communities gives McDonough great joy – because it helps this fighter honor the legacy of his 19 lost, but not forgotten, brothers.
Grant McKee, 21
Grant Quinn McKee was a true brave heart. To say he had the heart of a lion falls short of who he was. Grant was born May 18, 1992, in Newport Beach, California, to Marcia and G. Scott McKee.
Everything he did was threaded with respect and care for other people’s feelings. Grant honored those around him. He loved his mother, father and grandmother. Grant moved to Prescott and met the love of his life, Leah Fine. Leah is like an angel. She made Grant complete, and together they exemplified what love is. Grant wanted to travel the world with Leah.
He enjoyed wrestling in high school and running marathons. His competitive nature, coupled with his desire to help others, was from where others drew strength. He was always loving, kind, and respectful. Fear was never part of the equation. Grant brought light in a sometimes dark world. He saw the crew as what they will always be—brothers.
While attending Prescott High School, Grant spoke at other high schools in Yavapai County, spreading the anti-drug message with the D.A.R.E program. He received his EMT from Yavapai College and joined his cousin, Robert Caldwell, on the Granite Mountain Hot Shots in 2013.
Sean Misner, 26
Sean Michael Misner was born April 8, 1987, in Goleta, California. He attended Santa Ynez
High School, where he played football and ran track. From the age of 10, Sean played football, baseball, and soccer. Because of his size, his nickname on the high school football team was “Mighty Mouse.” He was also known as Spiderman because of how the ball would stick to his hands. Sean always wanted to play professional football for the Dallas Cowboys, but quickly realized his true passion was to be a firefighter like his grandfather, great-grandfather, uncles, and cousin.
He loved to be outdoors—at the Red Rock River, the ocean, hiking, and snowboarding. At Santa Barbara City College, he played football. He moved to Wyoming with his best friend, Jason Lambert, but returned to Santa Ynez after only three months. He became an assistant football coach for Dunn High School and also worked at Los Olivos grocery, where he met his wife, Amanda (Wilkinson) Misner, in 2010. He moved to Auburn, Alabama, again with Jason. This time, it was his love for a girl he had just met that brought him home.
Sean proposed on April 8, 2012 (his birthday), and was married on September 15, 2012. The couple moved to Prescott Valley, where Sean worked with Mountain West Aviation as a line tech while pursuing his dream and passion of becoming a wildland firefighter. On January 1, 2013, Sean learned he was going to be a father for the first time to a son. April 8th was his first day with the Granite Mountain Hot Shots. Sean spoke highly of all his crew members, and he trusted every single one of them to have his back. Sean’s smile could light up a room, and he became instant friends with people he met.
Everyone who knew the devoted husband, father-to-be, son, brother, grandson, nephew, cousin, and friend could count on him. Sean will be missed, but we know our angel in heaven will be watching over his family with his grandpa, “Smokey.”
Sean was 26 years old when he and his crew were killed fighting the Yarnell, Az. fire June 30th, 2013. September 15th 2012 he married his love and best friend Amanda, they moved to Prescott Arizona, where he began the training process for the GMHS. April 8th 2013 his birthday, found out he and his pregnant wife Amanda were having a boy, they decided to call him Jaxon Herbert, (Herbert after his grandfather who passed away Dec. 2nd 2012). Sean began working with the Granite Mountain IAC Hotshots the following day, April 9th. Sean was 5th generation firefighter, following in the footsteps of his grandfather (Herb McElwee, who passed away in December 2012), his two uncles and his cousin and great grandfather. Sean’s dream had come true, becoming a firefighter, being married and a son on the way. A football player and fan Sean would talk about playing catch and showing his son how to catch a ball the right way! Sean being small in stat ure 5’10 185, he had the heart of a lion and was a competitor and when playing “Youth Football” his team had phrase they played by: “Be Strong, Confident and enthusiastic”. That’s the way Sean lived his life. Though he never got to meet his son he loved him so much. Shortly before the tragedy, he laid his head on Amanda’s stomach and spoke to his son, telling his wife, he was afraid Jaxon wouldn’t know his voice because he was going to be gone to fires so much. After loosing Sean, Amanda decided to call their son, Sean Jaxon Herbert, though Jaxon is what he goes by. Anyone you speak to would say about Sean, he was a quiet, humble, polite person. His friends say you could count on Sean to be there, to listen when needed. Quiet yet when something needed to be said he had the ability to say the right thing or give comfort.
Scott Norris, 28
Scott Daniel Norris was born October 12, 1984, to Jim and Karen Norris of Prescott, Arizona. Scott was an intelligent, stable, responsible young man who valued his family and friends, loved adventure and traveling, and enjoyed making others laugh.
Scott grew up in Prescott, and along with his sister, Joanna, learned to appreciate the outdoors as soon as he could walk. He attended local schools, played basketball, and did some wrestling at Bradshaw Mountain High School, where he graduated in 2003. Scott attended Yavapai College while working for a local irrigation business; along with general education classes, he acquired his firefighter certification.
When Scott was twenty years old, he and his lifelong friend, Sean, bought a home. As parents, we appreciated the fact that Scott was good with money, a saver. He was a reader and a thinker who analyzed political and social issues and enjoyed discussion and debate. More importantly, Scott had a solid knowledge of the Bible and was a Christian believer.
Scott made several backpacking excursions into various parts of the Grand Canyon. In 2010, he was trip leader for a 230-mile, 20-day private raft trip down the Colorado River, which included his parents and close friends. He took an extended trip to Nicaragua, Honduras, and Costa Rica one summer with his friend, Ian, and also traveled to Thailand and Cambodia. During his time off, Scott made it a priority to spend time with family, friends, and his girlfriend, Heather, and her dogs. He loved exploring and camping in the beautiful canyons and creeks in northern Arizona. He was also an excellent snowboarder, and regularly enjoyed winter trips to Colorado. He was passionate about weather, and along with his Dad, often chased thunderstorms and snowstorms. Scott had a creative side as well and was an exceptional writer; while traveling, he sent detailed, descriptive emails and occasionally penned a poem.
In 2009, Scott was hired by the Payson Hotshots, with whom he worked four seasons; he learned discipline and leadership, gained wisdom, and forged many fine friendships. Fellow hotshots felt lucky to work side by side with Scott and were grateful for the countless times he made them laugh. Payson hotshot Evan Whetten said, “Scott was one of the toughest, most unbreakable guys, with the biggest and the sweetest heart of anyone I’d ever known. A true original, Scott was never afraid to be himself and did not follow trends. He was his own man. He would do absolutely anything for a friend.”
Scott was hired in March, 2013 to be a wildland firefighter for the Granite Mountain Hotshots. Scott, along with eighteen other brave young men, lost his life on Yarnell Hill on June 30, 2013.
Wade Parker, 22
A native of Chino Valley, Arizona, Wade Scott Parker was born on October 30, 1990. He graduated from Chino Valley High School in 2009 and attended Lamar Community College in Colorado in 2009-2010. At the end of the 2010 spring semester, he chose to return to Arizona to pursue his dream of becoming a firefighter like his father.
Wade joined the Granite Mountain Interagency Hotshot crew in 2012. He was awarded Rookie of the Year his first season. Wade was honored to be a part of the Granite Mountain crew. He loved his job and the amazing men he worked with. Being a Hotshot allowed Wade to spend time in the great outdoors, one of his great passions.
Wade was a motivated and driven young man. He loved competition and always gave 110 percent. Wade grew up an athlete, playing baseball and football from the time he was five years old. He played shortstop and was captain of the Chino Valley baseball team. He earned numerous awards and was a four-year letterman in baseball, making the All State team. He also lettered in football, earning All Region every year he played. He went on to play in Lamar, Colorado, on a baseball scholarship.
Wade was a natural leader; he didn’t demand respect, but earned it. Wade was always there to help. He was a man of honor, integrity, and wisdom beyond his years, as well as an inspiration to others. Wade’s laughter was contagious, and he had a zest for life.
Wade loved the outdoors and hunting and began shooting a bow at the age of two. He hunted with a traditional bow made by his father. He loved shooting the bow with his father, uncle, and brother, and they did it quite often.
Wade grew up very involved in church and was a mentor in his youth group and in his community, as well as a spiritual team leader on his football and baseball teams. He carried this on in his profession, leading many to Christ, including his team members and fellow firefighters.
He loved his family and fiancée more than life itself and couldn’t wait to start his own family. He planned to be married to his high school sweetheart in September 2013. Wade was a devoted son and soon to be husband, as well as a wonderful uncle and brother. His legacy will live on in Arizona with his friends and family and at LCC with scholarships that bear his name.
Wade and the other members of the Yarnell 19 loved and honored each other, staying together until the end. They will all be greatly missed.
John Percin Jr., 24
John Percin loved his family and his beautiful English lab, Champ, more than anything in the world. John’s honesty and loyalty guided him every step of the way and will continue to touch many forever. John’s smile, kindness, and warm embrace were unmatched. All of those who knew John felt the exact same way.
John is forever grateful for the love and support of the Prescott, Arizona, community—a tight-knit place where he bettered himself and proudly called home. He was forever touched by the love of his friends at the Chapter Five Recovery Center, and he was equally touched by the love of his brothers in the Granite Mountain Hot Shots.
John’s passion for life was deep. He approached every day with optimism and excitement. John was truly at peace when he was out enjoying the beauty of life. While he shined in everything he did, his true passions were hiking, basketball, and family. John is a hero who made us all so very proud. He and his brothers will never be forgotten.
Anthony Rose, 23
At the young age of 23, Anthony was compassionate for anything that had to do with fire. He became a crew member for the Granite Mountain Hotshots in 2012, after working for four years with the Crown King Fire Department. He was a diligent, hard-working member of his crew and was frequently depended on for the hardest of tasks.
Anthony could brighten up a room with his smile and sense of humor, and he was always well liked by others. He was loyal to his brothers through thick and thin.
Anthony will never be forgotten. He lives on every day through his daughter—bright blue eyes and an unforgettable smile. He leaves behind his fiancée, Tiffany, and his daughter, Willow.
Jesse Steed, 36
Jesse James Steed was born in Cottonwood, Arizona, September 28, 1976, to Claudia Federwisch. Jesse was the beloved husband of Desiree Steed and amazing father to Caden (4), and Cambria (3).
He was the second oldest of four siblings—Cassidy Steed, Levi Federwisch, and Taunya Steed—and grandson to Herman and Reaut Federwisch. Jesse was an amazing individual, husband, father, and brother to all. His children and wife were the light of his life; he was a truly dedicated family man.
Jesse grew up in the southwest, calling the quad city area his home. After Jesse graduated from high school he joined the United States Marine Corps, serving from 1996 until 2000. He joined the Forest Service in 2001, often saying it was the closest thing to military camaraderie that he could find in the civilian world. He worked on the Prescott Hotshot, helitack, and engine crews until he became a part of the Granite Mountain Hot Shots in 2009. He proudly served as the captain to a crew he referred to as a brotherhood.
Jesse enjoyed being outdoors hiking, running, and biking. He had a need for speed, whether on a street bike, dirt bike, or sand rail. He loved spending time with his kids doing whatever they wanted to do. He was a big kid himself, often called a teddy bear and a gentle giant. He was always the life of the party and the comedian of the group. He loved making people happy.
Jesse had a way of making everyone around him feel like they were the most special person in his life. He would always greet and leave you with a rib crushing hug and never said goodbye to anyone without an “I love you.”
Joe Thurston, 32
Joe was a devoted husband, father, and son. He had a smile that would light up a room and a laugh that would warm your heart. Joe always did everything he could to help others.
An avid outdoorsman, he loved skateboarding, snowboarding, cliff jumping, hiking, and anything that could get the blood pumping. He was a talented drummer and member of several bands. Joe could always be found at the park with the kids or in the kitchen making up a masterpiece of a meal.
Joe earned his bachelor’s degree in biology in 2006 and his EMT in 2011. Joe began his wildland fire career in 2008 working for Blacktimber Fire, as well as The Groom Creek Fire Department. He was thrilled and so proud when he became a Granite Mountain Hotshot in 2012.
A very smart and extremely loving man, he will be so missed.
He is survived by his wife, Marsena, and his children, Ethan and Collin.
Travis Turbyfill, 27
Travis Turbyfill was born on March 25, 1986, and grew up in beautiful Prescott, Arizona. As a child he lived in Groom Creek, where his love for the outdoors began. He lived next door to his grandparents and spoke of hunting and fishing with his grandpa on a daily basis from the time he was three years old. Travis was an only child, but began developing friendships at a young age that would last a lifetime.
He graduated from Prescott High School in 2004 and fulfilled a lifelong dream when he began his career as a wildland firefighter in 2005. Travis served in the United States Marine Corps from 2007 to 2010. He then resumed his career as a firefighter in 2011 with the Granite Mountain Hot Shots, a crew of men who were not just coworkers but friends and brothers.
Travis’ first date with Stephanie was July 22, 2007. He told her just days before he died that he fell in love with her on that night. They were married on August 1, 2009, with their best friends and family surrounding them on the red rocks of Sedona, Arizona. “He was the love of my life, my best friend, and my soul mate,” she says. “We loved spending time together, talking, and making each other laugh. We shared a tremendous pride for our two little girls, Brooklyn Elizabeth (2), and Brynley Elizabeth (1). I loved our life together.”
Travis was a hands-on dad. He changed diapers, painted toenails, and played with the girls non-stop. He had a heart of gold and wore it on his sleeve. “Not a day went by that we didn’t know how much he loved us, cared for us, and appreciated us,” says Stephanie. “He thought he was the luckiest man in the world, but I know we were the lucky ones.”
He was a strong man, a natural leader and a great firefighter. He loved what he did and did it well.
William Warneke, 25
William Howard Warneke, “Billy,” as he was called by family and friends, was an avid outdoorsman. He was born in Hemet, California, on August 13, 1987, to Kathie Holland and Harry Warneke. He was raised in the country and was instilled with the morals of country living—love for country, integrity, honesty, and pride in one’s work. He lived each day with courage.
His courageous spirit led him to enlist in the United States Marine Corps when he was 17 and to serve a combat tour in Iraq. After honorably serving in the United States Marine Corps, he attended Pima Community College in Tucson, Arizona, where he earned his EMT-B, graduated from the college’s fire academy, took additional courses at the Arizona Wildfire Academy, and earned a degree in fire science with a 3.55 GPA.
When he was not working, he was learning something new. He frequently purchased books to read about his favorite topics: military history, reloading ammunition, construction, carpentry, landscaping, animal husbandry, archery, hunting, and wildlife. At the first opportunity he had, he would apply his new knowledge into his life, whether it was building a chicken coop or fixing a broken something around the house.
Billy would always lend a helping hand without expecting a reward. He was always the gentleman, opening doors and pulling out chairs. He would help a child with their homework or help them to overcome their fears through patience, understanding, and tutelage. The children in the neighborhood where he and his wife lived knew that Billy would always help them out if they had a fundraiser. Billy would buy items from their catalogs and take all of the vehicles to their carwashes.
Billy loved to laugh and to play pranks on his wife or siblings. He was easygoing and quick to smile. He viewed everyday casually and as another day for adventure. A few days a week he would enjoy the things he loved doing—hunting, fishing, and mountaineering.
Billy possessed honor, high morals, and unwavering loyalty. He always strived to be the best in everything that he did, which led him to the Granite Mountain Interagency Hotshot Crew. He believed that Granite Mountain IHC was a hotshot crew that deserved his admiration and respect.
He made a commitment to himself that he would earn a coveted position in their ranks, which he fulfilled.
Billy is survived by his wife, Roxanne, and his daughter, Billie Grace.
Clayton Whitted, 28
Clayton Thomas Whitted was born June 27, 1985, to Carl and Kathleen Whitted. He was welcomed by his two sisters, Carmen and Cheryl. He was raised in Prescott, Arizona, and from a young age had a strong love for life and the outdoors.
Clayton attended Prescott High School, where he played football, basketball, and ran track. He loved the friendships that he gained more than the games that they won. Clayton graduated in 2004 and continued his education at Yavapai College and Arizona State University, gaining more knowledge of fire science.
After high school, Clayton pursued his longtime dream of becoming a firefighter and accepted a position with the Prescott Hotshots. When his mother became ill, Clayton took a full-time position with the Heights Church Youth and became the junior high pastor, where he mentored hundreds of young teens. Clayton’s mom passed away in December 2007, and the next spring
Clayton resumed his career and started with the Granite Mountain Hot Shots. Clayton’s work with the Granite Mountain Hot Shots expanded, as did his responsibility, when he became a squad leader. Soon after, he was introduced to Kristi Hoffman, who quickly captured Clayton’s attention and his heart. They were married on February 12, 2011.
The more anyone got to know Clayton, he became less like a friend and more like a brother. Clayton’s heart was so selfless, and he was willing to sacrifice for others as he would for his own family.
Clayton spent his life serving in the community and helping numerous organizations and people alike. Clayton’s unique personality and contagious smile, paired with his laughter and hugs, were an example to all who met him of what it meant to love fully.
Though Prescott may mourn the loss of Clayton Whitted, though the nation may mourn the loss of a brave firefighter, and though the world may mourn this tragedy, we will choose to celebrate his time on earth.
Kevin Woyjeck, 21
Kevin Woyjeck, 21, died fulfilling a family firefighter legacy. His father, Joe Woyjeck, was a fire captain with the Los Angeles County Fire Department. His two uncles were firefighters there as well. Kevin’s grandmother, Delores Woyjeck, said her grandson wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps, first joining the Los Angeles County Fire Department Explorers Club when he was 15.
After working for several years as a firefighter, he joined a hotshot team in South Dakota. From there he joined the Granite Mountain Hot Shots in April. Los Angeles County Fire Chief Daryl Osby stated, “Kevin and I just spoke a few months ago about how excited he was to be a hotshot in Arizona.” Kevin joined the Granite Mountain Hot Shots to gain the wildland firefighting experience he needed for his desired job in the Los Angeles County Fire Department.
He is survived by his parents, a brother (19), and his 16-year-old sister. Maddie says there are so many things she will miss about her brother. “I’m going to miss his smile, his laugh, the way he said ‘I love you.’ He was so outgoing; he could walk into a room and just start a fire inside of somebody,” she said.
Garret Zuppiger, 27
Garret was born December 14, 1985, in Phoenix, Arizona. He graduated from Greenway High School in Phoenix in 2003 and from the University of Arizona with a degree from Eller College of Management in 2008.
During his freshman year of high school, he was nominated for the People to People Student Ambassador program and traveled to England, Ireland, and Wales representing and promoting our country. As a boy, Garret was one of the youngest at that time to receive certification and sail Long Beach harbor in a sabot.
He was extremely proud and excited to be accepted as a member of the Granite Mountain Hotshots for the 2012 season, having no prior experience or background in firefighting. During his rookie season as a hotshot, he attended wildfire training school and was awarded the fire boots for being first in his class.
During the off months of fire season he was a carpenter by trade, which he loved as well.
Garret most valued his family, friends, and the outdoors. He loved to run, hike, fish, rock climb, travel, cook, and play his guitar for his friends and family. Garret was the most generous, giving, kind and hardworking man, using his everlasting abundance of energy towards always helping others, regardless of his help having been requested or not.
One friend shared a story that perfectly exemplifies Garret’s generosity. He and his new bride had moved into a home that needed a little upkeep. Garret learned the pair were going out for the evening and quickly went to work, digging up and removing old dirt and grass from the yard. When the newlyweds arrived home, Garret turned on his truck lights as the couple approached and unveiled a flower garden he had made for them. He thought it would be the perfect gift.
Garret was also an avid reader and a beautiful writer. He loved vocabulary and would try to stump his “Ome” by choosing a word he thought may accomplish that. Garret’s words and avid imagination touched the hearts of many as his blog “I’d Rather Be Flying!” was shared following his loss. In his blog, Garret articulately accounted his life’s adventures, including his status as an outlaw. Garret recounts, “I am, at current, an outlaw. I have been forced to go from town to town, to hide my shame…. It wasn’t always this way. The beautiful city of Tucson got me again. Tucson got me for jay-walking once.”
Garret had a sense of humor like no other. He was a free spirit and loved a great adventure. He lived his life by his favorite saying: “Dream as if you will live forever, live as if you will die tomorrow.”
Information provided from the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation. For more information on all of our fallen heroes, please visit: firehero.org.