According to news reports, three firefighters killed in the tragic Arizona fires were Southern California natives, and one was the son of Los Angeles County Fire Captain Joe Woyjeck.
Flags in Los Angeles County are flying in honor of Kevin Woyjeck, 21, who died Sunday while fighting a large wildfire near Yarnell, Arizona. Woyjeck was one of 19 members of an elite wildland firefighting crew killed in the aggressive fire that was ignited by a lightning strike.
The men lost their lives honorably, fighting a fire that has already spread 13 square miles and damaged more than 50 homes. Four hundred firefighters continue to battle the fire, all putting their lives at risk. Eighteen firefighter crews are elite hotshot fire crews similar to the crew that lost their lives on Sunday. There are approximately 100 hotshot crews in the U.S. who travel many miles with heavy gear to fight fires across the U.S. and keep us safe.
President Obama recognized their heroism in this tragic accident. The firefighters, he said, are "heroes -- highly-skilled professionals who, like so many across our country do every day, selflessly put themselves in harm's way to protect the lives and property of fellow citizens they would never meet." He said that government leaders will likely take a new look at firefighter safety involving destructive wildfires.
Our hearts go out to all of the families who have lost loved ones in this deadly blaze. "We're devastated," Prescott Fire chief Dan Graijo said in a news conference, "We just lost 19 of the finest people you'll ever meet."
Source: Los Angeles Times, "Three SoCal Natives Are Among Firefighters Killed In Arizona," Ruben Vives, Samantha Shaefer, July 1, 2013