National News

19 firefighters mourned at Arizona memorial service

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Family, friends and thousands of firefighters from across the country gathered at a memorial service for the 19 firefighters killed while battling an Arizona wildfire.

Vice President Joe Biden and Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer spoke at the memorial, which was held in a packed arena in Prescott Valley, Ariz. Brewer said while she couldn't truly understand the grief of the families, she'll be praying for them always.

The bodies of the 19 elite Granite Mountain Hotshots have not been left alone since they were pulled from a charred mountainside last week. The team was overrun by smoke and fire on a ridge in Yarnell.

Brendan McDonough, the one member who survived, will offer what's called "The Hot Shot's Prayer," which ends with a line that will most certainly be difficult for the young man to read: "For if this day on the line ... I should answer death's call ... Lord, bless my hot shot Crew ... My family, one and all."

About 300 firefighters from Southern California headed to Arizona to be among the thousands at the service to pay their respects to the victims, which included five from California: 21-year-old Kevin Woyjeck of Seal Beach, 30-year-old Christopher MacKenzie of Hemet, 25-year-old Billy Warneke of Hemet, 21-year-old Grant McKee of Costa Mesa and 26-year-old Sean Misner of Santa Ynez.

Members of the OCFA's Pipes and Drums group performed at the memorial.

"The fire service is a very close knit family, so anytime we lose a member of the fire service family, we feel compelled to be able to make the trip," said Orange County Fire Authority Division Chief Kris Concepcion.

Outside, each of the 19 firefighters was represented by a U.S. flag and a purple ribbon with his name. A bronze statue of a wildland firefighter with an ax in hand, stood in front as if guarding the arena.

Inside, each of the firefighters' names scrolled across an electronic board on two sides of the minor league hockey arena. Lined up in front of the stage were 19 sets of firefighting gear, complete with commemorative Pulaski tools similar to the ones the elite crew uses to dig lines around fires.

The memorial service, called "Our Fallen Brothers: A Celebration of Life," will be the last of a handful of vigils for the men before the first of 19 funerals begin later in the week.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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